Multi-robbery suspect fatally shot in Fullerton, followed by police chase and by suicide by cop pose
Fullerton police Monday released more details of a fatal police shooting of an armed robbery suspect in the city of La Habra following a high-speed pursuit last month.
While police were chasing 48-year-old Austin Heiselman of Whittier, his father dialed 911 to tell dispatchers his son said he intended to “die suicide by cop,” according to a 14-minute video the department released Monday.
“My son is just being pulled over right now,” the suspect’s father told a dispatcher during the Feb. 10 pursuit. “He called me on the phone. He just told me he wants to die by suicide by cop.”
A license-plate reader alerted police to the suspect, whose vehicle was being sought in connection with an armed robbery in San Bernardino County, according to the video. Police showed surveillance video of the holdup.
Police attempted to pull Heiselman over in a sport-utility vehicle at Harbor Boulevard and Chapman Avenue, and it appeared he was initially complying when the vehicle slowed, but a woman jumped out and ran and Heiselman kept going, triggering the high-speed pursuit, according to Fullerton police Capt. Jon Radus.
“He drove with a wanton disregard for the motoring public,” Radus said.
He waved a handgun out the window at one point during the chase, according to Radus.
A police helicopter joined the chase as officers attempted to lay down spike strips to stop the suspect. Heiselman flashed through multiple red lights as he led police on the chase, according to the video from the helicopter.
Heiselman flew past a red light at Imperial and Beach boulevards in La Habra, slammed into another car and flipped over in the SUV, which burst into flames, Radus said.
Heiselman managed to get out of the vehicle and started running away into a nearby shopping center, Radus said. Body-worn video footage show officers calling for a long rifle before encountering the suspect around a corner, where he assumed a shooting stance posture and was gunned down.
Four officers opened fire on the suspect, Radus said. No weapon was found on Heiselman, who was unarmed except for a knife in his pocket, according to Radus. Police later found two fake handguns and ammunition in the vehicle, Radus said.
Police attempted to revive the suspect before paramedics arrived, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Heiselman had a lengthy criminal record that included robbery, being a felon in possession of a firearm, car theft, carrying a concealed weapon and unlawful possession of tear gas, according to Radus. He was also a suspect in several other armed robberies, the captain added.
Authorities were continuing to investigate the shooting to determine if it was justified, Fullerton police Chief Bob Dunn said.