HOUSTON – Houston police were involved in a chase Monday after a suspect stole an ambulance from a Houston Fire Department station, according to the Houston Police Department.
HPD’s Commander Caroleta Johnson said the suspect, who was identified as Troy Patrick Lopez, 29, stole the Infinity from a Kroger gas station.
“He was pretending to assist a lady, he told her cap was still open, so he pretended to go and close the cap and then he was able to get inside her vehicle and take it from her,” she said. “There were no injuries to my knowledge. It was just a theft, not a robbery, nothing in addition to that occurred.”
According to the fire department, the suspect then drove the car to Fire Station 17 with a flat tire around 1 p.m.
Officials said one of the station’s bay doors was open as a firefighter asked the suspect if he needed help. Lopez reportedly jumped into the ambulance and sped off. One of the commanders at the station tried to follow the suspect but lost him.
When asked why the ambulance keys were so accessible? Houston Fire Department’s Executive Assistant Chief Rodney West said as protocol, the ambulance keys are usually left inside the station and sometimes in the vehicles.
“It’s not the first time. The truck being in the bay and the keys in it are not anything outside of our protocol,” West said. “We have automatic vehicle location on the units. It’s through the dispatch system. Sometimes it’s inconsistent working and this case with the reserved unit it wasn’t working.”
During the hourlong search, police said Lopez was spotted near the West Loop around 3 p.m. in southwest Houston. A police helicopter followed the ambulance until ground crews were able to chase it.
“Usually when we conduct a stop, we have to wait for when we have sufficient manpower and our lieutenant made sure she had at least two additional units prior to them initiating the traffic stop,” Commander Johnson said.
The chase ended after officers used spike strips to flatten the tires, forcing the suspect to pull over at Rice Boulevard and Greenbriar Drive.
Witnesses say the driver tried to keep going but was blocked by a METRO bus turning right onto Rice Boulevard.
“The bus was trying to turn, and they couldn’t turn because obviously, these roads are super narrow, so the ambulance had to stop,” said Julia Rodriguez who was working at the veterinarian across the street. “This is not the right road to go down if you’re trying to steal an ambulance. There’s so much traffic. It just all caught up with him.”
The ambulance did hit witness Miguel Orellana’s vehicle as he was trying to get away.
“You think it’s a regular emergency, you know, it had its sirens on its lights,” Orellana said. “That’s why I tried to move out the way to the left side, it ended up hitting me.”
Lopez was taken into custody and the scene was secured. He was charged with evading arrest and theft.
Previous stolen ambulance incidents in Houston area: