Man poisons self, dies after freeway chase

A rape suspect died after drinking cyanide during a freeway chase in Southern California.
A rape suspect died after drinking cyanide during a freeway chase in Southern California.

A man suspected of raping a 14-year-old he lured to a motel via social media was fleeing from police on a Southern California freeway when he drank cyanide as he drove and killed himself, authorities say.

The slumped-over man's car careened down US 101 in Ventura before crashing.

Officers had been chasing Jonathan Hanks, 33, of Camarillo, when they saw him drink from a bottle. His car drifted across all northbound lanes and then came to a stop after bumping the centre median, authorities said.

The drifting car had officers first thinking Hanks may have shot himself, but an on-scene test of the empty bottle led authorities to conclude he had consumed a mixture of salt and potassium cyanide.

The California Highway Patrol had received calls during the chase indicating Hanks was going to kill himself, CHP Investigator Christopher Terry told KABC-TV , without elaborating.

Hanks had no criminal record before the sexual assault investigation, but there was physical evidence supporting a mother's claims that he had lured the girl to a Los Angeles motel via Snapchat and raped her on February 4.

"This morning, we were planning on executing a search warrant and to take him into custody and arrest him," Toosbuy said.

But Hanks somehow realised detectives were coming and fled in his Nissan Versa, authorities said.

He refused to pull over and led officers on the 10km chase, CHP Officer Kevin Denharder said.

After it stopped, the black Nissan was surrounded by fire and police vehicles, including an armoured SWAT truck.

A team led by a firefighter in a gas mask broke a window of the car and pulled Hanks out.

His body could be seen lying on the freeway next to the car under a blanket soon after.

Australian Associated Press