LAURA Jaxson had to pull the pram holding her 1-year-old son out of the path of a fleeing driver as he ran a red light during a dramatic police chase spanning close to 20km through Auckland yesterday.
The man stole one car and tried to carjack others during the ordeal that damaged vehicles, caused pedestrians and children biking to school to take cover and kept residents holed up inside their homes as police searched for the offender.
Waitemata police arrested a 36-year-old Northland man in relation to the chase yesterday afternoon.
He was found asleep on a couch in a Belmont property on the North Shore about 4pm by the occupants of the house. Police woke the man and arrested him.
Senior Sergeant Steve Pivac said a man was noticed driving erratically near the Spaghetti Junction motorway interchange in central Auckland about 7.55am, and failed to stop for police as he headed north over the harbour bridge.
He then left the motorway at Northcote and wove through suburban streets until he reached Glenfield, where he ditched the car - registered to a Northland address - in Parity Place.
Fleeing on foot, he tried to carjack a number of vehicles in Velma St - including one with a family taking their children to school - before stealing a gold Toyota Funcargo from an elderly man.
He then drove down Coronation Rd, where he collided with Danica Hibdige's Suzuki Swift as she was driving to work.
"I was waiting at a traffic light and all of a sudden a car hit the back of mine ... and drove off."
Ms Hibdige said the car drove on to the wrong side of the road and mounted the berm and footpath as it turned on to Sunnybrae Rd, and there were soon about six police cars on its tail.
Mr Pivac said police had to abandon the pursuit because of the driver's recklessness, but motorway cameras picked the man up again as he drove on Esmonde Rd towards Hauraki Rd.
When he ran the red light at the intersection of Lake Rd and Hauraki Rd, Mrs Jaxson was crossing with her young son in his pram as she walked him to daycare.
"It was very surreal at the time. I was about halfway across the road when I heard the car speeding up. I thought, 'That doesn't sound right,' and as he went past I had to move the buggy so it didn't get hit.
"I was just picturing the buggy somersaulting through the air."
There were also about five school children on their bikes as well as a number of pedestrians crossing the busy intersection from all four sides.
Mrs Jaxson, a psychology master's student at AUT, said up to 12 police cars followed the gold car.
It continued through Hauraki and into Belmont, near Devonport, where the driver parked it neatly in a driveway in Diomede St.
Resident Tasha Payne saw the stolen car - with a mobility permit in the window - where it had been dumped in her neighbour's driveway.
The AUT health science student said she heard sirens about 8.30am, and looked out her window to see seven police cars and one unmarked police car in the small cul-de-sac.
Ms Payne said she was asked to stay inside as the event unfolded.
Mr Pivac said police dog handlers were unable to locate the man immediately, although they had been "very, very close".
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