Voyeurism suspect arrested after fleeing in patrol car

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WEST VALLEY CITY -- A suspect stole a West Valley police officer's car Wednesday afternoon, then led police on a high-speed chase. It ended when the man rolled the patrol car into a drainage ditch along State Route 201 and 7200 West.

"We saw two cars flying by, and it was cop chasing another cop," said witness John Griego.

But it wasn't a police officer behind the wheel of one of the cars. It was 20-year-old Phuong Le, who stole a patrol car to make his escape.

"I didn't know people stole cars, in Utah?" witness Justin Beckmann said.

According to police, Le stole the car after he was arrested at the Valley Fair Mall. They said he taped a cell phone to his shoe and took pictures up a mall employee's skirt. Officers said they found pictures of other girls on the phone too.

Le was handcuffed and on his way to jail when he said he was having trouble breathing.

"Our officer pulled over in the parking lot, got out of his car to go back and assist the suspect who was in custody," said West Valley police Lt. John Coyle.

Le somehow managed to take off the handcuffs, crawl through a small opening in the Plexiglas barrier and jump into the driver's seat. Police said he punched the officer and drove away.

"Another one of our officers picked up the vehicle approximately 30 seconds later, and a high-speed chase ensued after that," Coyle said.

Near 7200 West, Le lost control of the car, hit a light pole and then rolled the car into a ditch. Police arrested him a second time and took him to jail.

That's not his first trip there, either. Court records show Le is on probation. Earlier this year, he spent 180 days in jail for robbery.

"It's really crazy," Beckmann said. "Kinda scary, actually, to know you don't really know who you can trust, I guess."

Just how Le got out of the handcuffs is under investigation; police found them in the back seat of the patrol car. One police lieutenant said he's never seen anyone get out of handcuffs in his 14 years on the job.

E-mail: syi@ksl.com


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