Police: Chase suspect released from jail

Aug 8, 2010

Tonsha Wilcher - Police Chase Suspect

Tonsha Wilcher - Police Chase Suspect

A man who may have been emotionally disturbed when he allegedly threatened police at the Southwest Station and led them on a vehicle chase that ended in a crash and rough arrest was released from jail, but remained in custody, according to the sheriff's department.

Tonsha Wilcher, 38, was arrested at 2 p.m. Thursday by officers from the LAPD Southwest Division, booked at 1:09 a.m. Friday at the 77th Street Station Jail, and released at 3:17 p.m. Saturday, according to the sheriff's Inmate Information Center.

Wilcher, who was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon not a firearm with great bodily injury, was released into the custody of another law enforcement agency, said Deputy Jeff Gordon of the Sheriff's Headquarters Bureau.

Authorities were not specific, but it is possible Wilcher is on a psychiatric hold at a mental hospital.

Wilcher's mother, Linda Wilcher, said her son has a history of mental problems that grew worse after his father -- her husband -- recently died and he stopped taking his medications.

Wilcher apparently was looking for trouble about 2 p.m. Thursday when he walked into the Southwest Station, made verbal threats and fled with officers in pursuit, said Richard French of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Driving erratically through South Los Angeles, he narrowly missed some vehicles and clipped others during a pursuit that was shown live on television.

At one point, Wilcher drove about a block on a sidewalk, with at least one pedestrian running out of his car's path. One officer involved in the chase crashed a patrol car into a tree.

The chase lasted about 20 minutes, ending with a collision at 37th Street and Normandie Avenue in South Los Angeles.

Officers quickly blocked Wilcher's vehicle with their patrol cars, then swarmed to it with guns drawn.

Wilcher, who is 6 feet 1 inch and 270 pounds, could be seen fighting with officers trying to pull him from the vehicle. Officers broke windows on the vehicle as they tried to arrest him and appeared to punch him. A team of officers eventually got him on the ground, where he appeared to continue struggling.

Wilcher was eventually handcuffed and carried to a patrol car. A small pool of blood was left on the street where he was apprehended.

Los Angeles police said in a statement that immediately after the arrest, Wilcher was taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries sustained during several collisions during the chase, and authorities asked medical staff to determine "the nature of Wilcher's threatening behavior toward the police."

After his arrest, his mother and brother wanted to see him, but claimed authorities refused access.

Police said the man was immediately hospitalized after the ordeal, and confusion regarding his status was attributed to the family requesting information from the wrong police division.

Linda Wilcher told City News Service Friday night that she, other family members, and their pastor tried to see her son but were denied access or otherwise redirected.

She and the suspect's brother, Tydrick Carr, allege authorities wouldn't let them see her son because he was badly injured by police when they took him into custody.

"I told them down at the station that my son is a schizophrenic bipolar," Linda Wilcher said. "I asked them `Did you guys beat my son up?' They told me if anything the officers were hurt."

She was unavailable for comment today.

Carr said family members had been trying to see Wilcher and inquiring about his condition since Thursday.

"Once they pulled my brother out of the car they started beating him," Carr said. "I believe they used excessive force, and because they said he threatened the officers I think they did something to him, or else why won't they let us see him?"

"I personally met with Wilcher's brother on the day of the pursuit, at Western Avenue and 45th Street, where it ended," said Capt. Steve Zipperman of the LAPD's Southwest Division.

Police said Zipperman gave Carr a business card and phone numbers where the family could get information on Wilcher.

"It is believed that any confusion regarding Wilcher's status likely resulted from the family attempting to obtain information from the LAPD's 77th Division, which was not involved in the arrest of Wilcher," police said in a statement.