Crime - Sacto 911

Hearing delayed for man held in stolen Sacramento police car beer run

It’s unclear when the barefoot man who allegedly took an idled Sacramento police cruiser on a beer run to a Florin Road-area liquor store before he was detained, beverage in hand, last weekend will face a judge after court officials postponed his scheduled Tuesday hearing.

Zachary Samaha was to be arraigned in Sacramento Superior Court on suspicion of felony auto theft and driving a stolen vehicle, but court officials after a delay Tuesday afternoon said mental health issues kept Samaha out of the courtroom. A future date was not immediately set.

Meantime, Sacramento police on Tuesday continue to investigate how the 22-year-old Samaha was able to climb into the black-and-white and drive to nearby A-1 Market Liquor on Sunnyslope Drive off of Florin Road. A department spokesman on Tuesday said the department also plans to review policy and procedure regarding the security of police vehicles and equipment.

“How it happened, we’re currently looking into that. We’re investigating it now,” said Sacramento Police Sgt. Vance Chandler. It’s not clear whether there is a standard protocol for officers who leave a patrol vehicle unattended, Chandler said on Tuesday. He added that department officials “constantly look at policies and procedures and we’ll do the same in this case.”

“We are very cautious with our equipment and we want to take all measures to do what we can to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” Chandler said.

Officers left their car unattended while responding to a call about 7:17 p.m. Saturday at Stockton Boulevard and Riza Avenue near Florin Road. Motorist Chris Marzan spotted the patrol cruiser with its headlights off some moments later heading south on Stockton, he told The Bee. The driver of the stolen police car, later identified as Samaha, made a U-turn before briefly losing control of the vehicle and running it into a utility pole.

Marzan said he saw Samaha, dressed in sweats, leave the patrol car only to climb back in. He U-turned again and drove onto Lindale Drive, stopping first in front of an apartment building before finding the liquor store’s parking lot. The motorist captured most of the escapade on a dashboard camera as he called police and later detained Samaha for authorities after watching him leave the store with an open 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith