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Details of December high speed chase emerge in hearing

Posted: May 23, 2011 6:54 p.m.
Updated: May 24, 2011 1:05 a.m.

LOS ANGELES — The Chatsworth man accused of leading deputies on a wild high-speed chase through Santa Clarita in December is bipolar and has a long history of mental illness, his mother testified during his preliminary hearing Monday.

Aaron Clay Tanner, 31, had been suffering from paranoid delusions and had gotten little sleep in the days leading up to the Dec. 17 crime spree, mother Amber Tanner said.

During the incident, which began in the Newhall Pass and ended in Saugus, Tanner allegedly stabbed his mother, stole her car, crashed it, stole another car with a young boy inside, crashed it, stole a deputy’s patrol car and totaled it. He was then arrested.

Newhall resident Fabiola Castro also told the court about the beating she endured near the corner of Sierra Highway and
Newhall Avenue before Tanner allegedly stole her Chrysler PT Cruiser — while her 4-year-old son was sitting in the backseat.

The revelations about Tanner’s state of mind during the crime spree came during witness testimony at Tanner’s preliminary hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Aaron Tanner had been complaining for several days before the chase that neighbors had been spying on him, Amber Tanner said. Under direct questioning from Deputy District Attorney Richard Quinones, Amber Tanner said she was driving her son to a cousin’s house in Bakersfield when he started to act erratically.

Before approaching the Newhall Pass, Amber Tanner struck a pothole. Aaron Tanner accused her of striking children with her Toyota Scion.

“He was hanging out of the car window and said, ‘You hit those kids on the street,’” Amber Tanner testified. “I told him, ‘Aaron, I didn’t hit any kids...’ He wasn’t in his right mind.”

Moments later, Aaron Tanner began throwing bags and swinging his arms wildly, she said.

“It was like when (Aaron) was a child,” Amber Tanner said. “You can look in his eyes and try to reason with him. But he’s not there.”

As he continued to throw his arms, Aaron Tanner slashed his mother with a folding knife six times.

That’s when Amber Tanner stopped her car and got out to the side of the freeway. The person driving behind the Tanners drove her to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital.

Before going to get stitches for her wounds, she saw her son drive away in her car north on Highway 14.

Minutes after, Fabiola Castro said she saw Aaron Tanner  on foot dodging traffic near the intersection of Sierra Highway and Newhall Avenue. By then, he had crashed the Scion into a pickup truck and then into a wall on Newhall Avenue near the Highway 14 overpass.

Tanner ran to her PT Cruiser and climbed through a rear passenger window. Her son was seated in the backseat on the driver’s side.

Tanner began grabbing her hair and cursing at her, Castro said. She was able to get out of the car and pull him out of the car as well.

But Tanner started punching her in the face, Castro testified. After being knocked to the ground, Tanner allegedly straddled Castro and proceeded to punch her in the back of her head.

“I remember (my son) screaming, “Don’t hit my mom!,” Castro said, crying.

Eventually, Tanner stopped striking her after passing motorists got out of their car to help. Tanner ran back to the PT
Cruiser and drove away with her son still strapped in his child’s seat, Castro testified.

As Castro spoke, Tanner sat handcuffed in a wheelchair next to his defense attorney. He rocked back and forth during Castro’s testimony.

Deputies eventually caught up to Tanner after he crashed the PT Cruiser near Carl Boyer Drive and Golden Valley Road.

As deputies got Castro’s son out of the crashed car, Tanner stole a sheriff’s patrol car and crashed it after driving the car off a 100-foot embankment at the end of a cul-de-sac on Santa Clarita Road. The boy received minor injuries in the crash, deputies said.

The entire episode spanned about 40 minutes, beginning with the stabbing incident at about 5:50 p.m., deputies said.
Tanner is facing 16 felony charges and is being held on $1.9 million bail at Men’s Central Jail, according to arrest records.

A sheriff’s department spokeswoman said Tanner had been arrested 15 times before the December incident.


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