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05-11-06, 11:16 AM #1
Man races into Mexico after allegedly abducting girlfriend
CHULA VISTA – A young man suspected of kidnapping his 17-year-old girlfriend became the subject of an international manhunt last night when he drove her into Mexico, outracing police, authorities said.
The FBI is working with Mexican authorities and Chula Vista police to trace the pair, Chula Vista police Lt. Gary Ficacci said.
Investigators said they believe Jose Luis Harper, 18, of Chula Vista forced his girlfriend, whom police identified as Erica Zaragoza, into her new Nissan Sentra and led officers on a 100-mph pursuit south on Interstate 805. He made it to the border and eluded authorities on both sides.
Her mother called police about 9 p.m. saying Harper had confronted her daughter at LA Fitness on Otay Lakes Road and shoved her into her car, a black Sentra with Mossy Nissan paper plates. The mother followed them south in another car, directing police by cell phone.
Officers caught up to them on I-805 near East Orange Avenue and tried to pull over the Sentra. Police did not follow the Sentra into Mexico. Harper had left his passport and other papers inside a Lincoln Navigator he had ditched after four hit-and-run crashes earlier in the evening, Ficacci said.
At 6:45 p.m., police started receiving calls about a collision with a Navigator at East Palomar Street and Olympic Parkway, and three more at Heritage Road and Olympic Parkway. One victim suffered minor injuries. At one point, Ficacci said, the Navigator driver crossed the center divider and hit a vehicle.
The Navigator was disabled by the last crash, and the driver ran. Officers with dogs and a sheriff's helicopter searched in vain through the neighborhood.
Ficacci said officers haven't been able to contact the Navigator's registered owner, who is in the military.
At least one crash victim confirmed that the man shown in the photo of a passport left in the Navigator was the man who had been driving it. The mother of Harper's girlfriend also identified Harper as the kidnapper, Ficacci said
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