Crime - Sacto 911

Man who died in the American River while fleeing police identified

The pursuit ended at the Howe Avenue River Access.
The pursuit ended at the Howe Avenue River Access. Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department

Sacramento County’s coroner identified Jerome Johnson on Sunday as the man who died in the American River on Saturday morning while attempting to flee from Rancho Cordova police.

Johnson, 34, was allegedly spotted around 7 a.m. driving a stolen car near the intersection of Sunrise Boulevard and Coloma Road, said the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. Officers tried to stop the car, but instead Johnson led the police on a chase westward down Highway 50, reaching speeds above 100 mph.

A news release said Johnson pulled off the highway at Howe Avenue and into the American River access point at La Riviera Drive. He ran into the woods, leaving a 38-year-old passenger in the vehicle.

Police began searching with K-9 units and spotted a man matching Johnson’s description struggling to swim across the river, which is still shockingly cold from snowmelt. Officers requested a rescue, but Johnson was unconscious by the time they pulled him from the water. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The passenger was released by police, according to the Sheriff’s Department. Johnson’s city of residence was not listed by the coroner.

Ellen Garrison: 916-321-1920, @EllenGarrison