A woman stole purses from the parking lot of a West Covina hospice, attacked another woman during a freeway hit-and-run, led police on a pursuit and rammed patrol cars before being arrested in La Puente early Friday, police said.
Teresa Vaimaona, 53, of West Covina was expected to be booked on suspicion of crimes including grand theft, hit-and-run, assault, assault with a deadly weapon and evading police, West Covina police Lt. Jerry Pearman said.
A West Covina police officer first encountered Vaimaona driving an SUV erratically in the area of Fairgrove and Willow avenues in West Valinda just after 7 a.m., West Covina police Lt. Jerry Pearman said.
At the time, the officer was unaware that the woman had just stolen several purses from the office of a West Covina hospice and choked another woman before fleeing the scene of a crash on the 10 Freeway, the lieutenant said.
“The person failed to yield and a pursuit ensued,” he said.
Police chase the woman east on Fairgrove Avenue to Hacienda Boulevard, according to Pearman. When the chase reached Amar Road in La Puente, the driver made a U-turn and began driving north on Hacienda Boulevard on the wrong side of the road.
A West Covina officer was driving south on Hacienda Boulevard to join the pursuit when he spotted the SUV heading directly toward him and pulled to the right side of the road.
To avoid other oncoming traffic, Pearman said, the SUV also pulled over along the right side of the road and collided with the stopped patrol car at slow speed.
Two more West Covina officers arrived and parked behind the SUV to block the woman in, police said.
As they exited their vehicles and tried to detain her, she gunned the engine in reverse and rammed both patrol cars, Pearman said. Officers had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit.
Officers smashed out one of the SUV’s windows with a baton and arrested her, he said.
Once in custody, authorities began connecting the woman to the alleged thefts, as well as the freeway assault and hit-and-run.
The suspect stole several purses earlier in the morning from the office of a hospice on Phillips Avenue, just south of Badillo Street in West Covina, where Vaimaona had gone to visit a relative who works there, Pearman said.
After getting into an argument with the relative, Vaimaona allegedly snatched several employees’ purses from an office and left.
She then became involved in a minor collision on the 10 Freeway near Vincent Avenue, police said.
Vaimaona choked the other driver, another woman in her 30s, before fleeing the scene, Pearman said. The assault victim was not seriously injured.
It was minutes later that West Covina police Officer Robert Nyquist spotted the suspect and initiated the chase. The hit-and-run and assault on the freeway had not been reported to police at that point.
The suspect was taken to a hospital to be examined before booking, officials said. She was believed to be mentally ill and off of her prescribed medication for several days.