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Hostage escapes after robbery, car chase in Lake Forest

June 10, 2009 |  1:08 pm

A armed man held up a check-cashing business in Lake Forest today and forced a customer into a car before leading police on a 55-minute high-speed pursuit through south Orange County.

A suspect was later arrested and the hostage was found unharmed.

Deputies responding to a silent alarm at Payday Loans Co. on El Toro Road arrived at 8:55 a.m. just as a lone suspect was coming out of the business, said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

The suspect, reportedly carrying a gun in one hand and a bag in the other, forced a 61-year-old customer into his getaway car after spotting the deputies, Amormino said.

The gunman sped off with the hostage, pulling onto the southbound 5 Freeway with deputies in pursuit, reaching speeds of 100 mph, Amormino said.

Amormino said the suspect later pulled off the freeway and drove randomly along Lake Forest Drive, Irvine Center Drive, Ridge Route Drive and Moulton Parkway as a sheriff’s helicopter tracked his route.

This was a very dangerous situation,” Amormino said. “You have a hostage, armed suspect and a pursuit going through side streets.”

Laguna Hills High School and several other area schools were put on lockdown during the pursuit. Amormino said the chase also caused a traffic collision at Alicia Parkway and Paseo de Valencia in Laguna Hills, but no one was injured.

The alleged robber eventually pulled into a parking lot on Mills Road in Laguna Hills and the hostage was able to jump out of the car, Amormino said. The man was uninjured.

Deputies said they recovered a 9-millimeter handgun with bullets in the chamber and an undisclosed amount of cash. The suspect was identified as Tracy Ramon Seward, 39, of Laguna Hills.

-- My-Thuan Tran

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