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CHP Incident Report: Suspected Mentally Ill Driver Ties Up Traffic on Highway 44

The California Highway Patrol has released details behind a bizarre series of events on Highway 44 that ended with an Oregon man in Banner Lassen with a suspected mental illness.

According to CHP Public Information Officer Kristen Wilburn, on September 18th, at around 10:30p.m., CHP dispatch received a call that a male pedestrian, possibly under the influence of drugs, was walking in the roadway on Highway 44 in the vicinity of Butte Lake Road.

A CHP officer responded, arriving to find an unattended silver Pontiac Grand Am parked in the middle of the highway.

“A big-rig driver who was on scene,” explains Officer Wilburn, “related the pedestrian/suspect was originally driving the Pontiac.”

The big-rig had been following the Pontiac when the suspect suddenly stopped.

“The suspect ran to the truck driver and told him he was being hunted and feared for his life. He asked the truck driver to call 911, got back into the Pontiac, and started driving westbound on highway 44.”

After a short distance the suspect again stopped the Pontiac in the middle of the road, got out and jumped in front of an eastbound black pickup.

“The driver of the pickup stopped and the suspect attempted to jump into the back of the pickup,” said Wilburn.

When the driver of the pickup noticed this, he sped away and the suspect fell to the asphalt and sustained a large scrape on his arm. He then got up and attempted to chase the pickup on foot. According to the CHP the suspect chased the pickup for approximately 1 1/2 miles.

The man then jumped out in front of an eastbound big-rig which stopped in the roadway. The suspect opened up the door to the truck and forced himself inside, telling the driver to get him some help. The big-rig driver attempted to call 911 but there was no cell phone service.

When the big-rig driver finally did have service, he stopped, called 911 and law enforcement took the suspect into custody.

The man, identified by the CHP as Shady Cove, Oregon resident Benjamin Kanner, was taken to Banner Lassen Medical Center and was determined to be mentally ill.

The CHP was assisted by the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office and the Susanville Police Department.

Jeremy Couso
Jeremy Couso Publisher/Editor
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