San Francisco ambulance thief at large as possible motives explored

Surveillance video shows an ambulance with the San Francisco Fire Department parked outside a home, with a medic getting out. Within minutes, the Ford F-350 would be stolen by a thief. 

"When they got to the front door of the home and opened the door, they realized their ambulance was gone," said fire Capt. Jonathan Baxter.

A motive for the crime is unknown. But it could be anything from a joyride to someone after the drugs inside. 

"It could be a number of factors: I’m going to sell it, I'm going to use the items that are in there. I’m going to use it for a taxi to get me from point A to point B," Baxter said.

It all began at about 6:15 p.m. Monday. The Fire Department was called to a home near 47th and Irving in the city's Outer Sunset. A patient was suffering from a condition related to the cold.

"This crew made the decision to remotely lock this ambulance to facilitate leaving the heater on," Baxter said.

But within 15 minutes, Medic 83 was gone. Officials won't say how it was taken. A man who lives in the area said he saw the chaotic aftermath. A second ambulance had to be called. SFPD showed up. 

"That’s stupid. It’s stupid, like how you gonna steal an ambulance? First responders, they need to save lives. They need the ambulance," he said.

The thief led California Highway Patrol officers on a chase down the Peninsula, across the San Mateo Bridge and into Oakland. KTVU traffic cameras caught part of the pursuit.

The thief "led law enforcement on a pursuit with blatant disregard for public safety," Baxter said.

Authorities say the thief even activated the emergency lights at one point.

The thief also ran red lights. Officers decided to stop chasing it because it became too dangerous. The ambulance was later found abandoned near East 12th st. and 17th Avenue in Oakland.

The ambulance had its tires blown out because of police spike-strips used in the pursuit. If it’s a total loss, it could take up to two years to replace because it needs a special chassis to negotiate San Francisco’s hills and narrow streets.

This isn't the first time an ambulance has been stolen in San Francisco. Last August, a man smashed a post into an ambulance - with the medics inside - and stole the vehicle from a Best Buy parking lot. The suspect in that case, Francisco Vargas-Osorio has been charged with attempted murder, assault, vandalism, carjacking and auto theft.

Baxter said ambulances in San Francisco have arrived at incidents within 10 minutes about 90 percent of the time last year. He says while the theft is a setback, it should not affect response time as the department will use other ambulances to help fill any gaps.