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Morgan Hill suspect nabbed after lengthy pursuit

Posted: Tuesday, Jul 9th, 2013

Watsonville Police traffic officer Jason Koehler secures the scene of a solo-vehicle crash on Merk Road in Corralitos Tuesday where a man reportedly led police on a chase around Watsonville and Corralitos. He eventually smashed into an apple tree (at left) and fled on foot. (Photos by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

CORRALITOS — A Morgan Hill man is in custody following a dramatic and lengthy vehicle pursuit around south Santa Cruz County Tuesday.

Even after Ralph Brooks, 46, allegedly smashed into an apple tree in Corralitos, he took off on foot and led police from four agencies on an additional two-hour foot chase before he was stopped at gunpoint.

The chase initially started just before noon in Morgan Hill where police there began chasing Brooks who was driving a stolen 2007 Ford Freestar van. Police had been summoned to some form of domestic disturbance where the saw Brooks bolt from them in the white minivan.

The pursuit threaded its way around Morgan Hill and onto Highway 152. Morgan Hill Police called off the pursuit near the Mount Madonna Summit after Brooks executed a number of dangerous maneuvers, including dangerous passing over the double yellow center divide.

However, one unmarked police unit did continue to shadow the Ford as it worked its way into Santa Cruz County. The Ford came over Hecker Pass, swung a right turn onto Casserly Road, then onto Green Valley Road toward Watsonville.

That’s when several Watsonville Police officers got behind the van as it sped toward Freedom Boulevard. Though police activated their lights and sirens Brooks hammered the gas pedal and careened through red lights and stop signs, oblivious to surrounding conditions. He hooked a daring and sweeping right onto northbound Freedom and right again on eastbound Airport Boulevard, only to return to where he was on Green Valley. He continued eastbound on Green Valley at about 60 mph and blasted his way onto Pioneer Road, blew through the stop sign at Amesti Road and used Varni Road to make his way onto Corralitos Road. At Merk Road Brooks lost control as he tried to hook a left onto the narrow country road. The van slid off the pavement, crossed a patch of loose soil and slammed into an apple tree.

Brooks reportedly hopped out of the van and took off on foot through an apple orchard.

Watsonville Police were joined by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, the California Highway Patrol and Morgan Hill Police in setting up a wide perimeter in hopes of closing in a huge noose around the orchard.

Sheriff deputy Doug Smith showed up with his K9 and began tracking Brook’s trail into the dusty terrain.

Watsonville Police Sgt. Brian Ridgway said he followed one trail of crushed weeds into the orchard and eventually heard some rustling in the brush. When he spotted Brooks frantically trying to evade police Ridgway stopped him at gunpoint.

Brooks was booked on suspicion of felony evading, being in possession of a stolen vehicle, resisting arrest and a lengthy list of vehicular violations.

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