Crime - Sacto 911

Man fleeing police died trying to swim across the American River

A car-theft suspect fleeing Rancho Cordova police officers died Saturday morning after attempting to swim across the American River, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department reported.

The incident started at about 7 a.m., when officers spotted a stolen car near the intersection of Sunrise Boulevard and Coloma Road. Two men were inside.

Officers tried to stop the car, but the driver sped off, leading police on a chase on westbound Highway 50 at speeds reaching more than 100 mph.

The driver exited the freeway at Howe Avenue and pulled into an access point for the American River, ending the vehicle pursuit. The passenger stayed in the car and was detained by police, while the driver ran into a nearby wooded area. Police set up a perimeter and began a search with K-9 units, a news release said.

As they searched, officers saw a man matching the driver’s description entering the cold water and struggling to swim across the river. They immediately requested a rescue boat, but he had disappeared.

A Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District helicopter crew spotted the man beneath the river’s surface. He was unconscious by the time rescuers pulled him from the water and performed life-saving measures. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The Sacramento County Coroner’s Office will release the identity of the drowned man after his family has been notified. The passenger in the incident, a 38-year-old man, was released by police, said Sgt. Shaun Hampton, a Sheriff’s Department spokesman.

Nashelly Chavez: 916-321-1188, @nashellytweets