Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies hit bystander's car during stolen car chase

FILE ART -Santa Clara County Sheriff. Photo: FB page

Santa Clara County Sheriff's deputies on Sunday struck a bystander's vehicle containing three people during a pursuit of a suspect allegedly driving a stolen car, the Sheriff's Office said.   

During the chase, one of the deputies was involved in a collision with another motorist driving a Toyota SUV at King Road and Commodore Drive in San Jose.  

Three occupants of the Toyota, including the driver, were transported to the hospital as a precaution and were later released, according to the Sheriff's Office. The deputy who was involved in the collision sustained minor injuries.  

Deputies were pursuing 24-year-old Thomas Thach, who was suspected of driving a stolen car. 

Deputies allege that Thach intentionally struck one of the sheriff's patrol vehicles during the chase, which is considered assault with a deadly weapon, explained Brooks Jarosz, Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office senior communications officer.  By doing so, officers believed Thach was a danger to innocent bystanders. 

"In a lot of pursuit policies, including ours, we're not going to chase after a vehicle unless there is some sort of risk to officer safety or safety of the public," Jarosz said. "In this case, he was already speeding, but then once he hit one of our patrol cars, that was the reason to keep pursuing."  

Thach was also driving into oncoming traffic at times, creating a safety risk to the public, the Sheriff's Office alleges.  

Deputies said they first attempted to pull Thach over for speeding in a gold Lexus sedan in the area of Berryessa Road and N. Capitol Avenue in San Jose, but Thach allegedly refused to yield to the officers and led deputies on a chase throughout East San Jose.   

Deputies eventually deployed spike strips to immobilize Thach's vehicle. Officers said Thach then fled on foot, and deputies closed in around him.  

"One of the things we don't want to do is cause the situation to escalate in any way, so we have kind of a cool down period," Jarosz continued. "We made a perimeter around there and started making some commands, and after about two or three commands, then he finally surrendered."  

Thach was arrested on suspicion of driving a stolen vehicle, assault with a deadly weapon, evading a peace officer, possession of stolen property, and delaying/obstructing/resisting arrest.  

"We take safety on our streets very seriously, and we're committed to deter any sort of chases like this," Jarosz said. "Unfortunately, this suspect did not stop when we tried to stop him."