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Vacationing family frisked on 405 Freeway in stolen vehicle mix-up

August 20, 2010 | 12:20 pm

A family of five heading on a camping trip was stopped at gunpoint and handcuffed Friday on the 405 Freeway by L.A. officers who thought their minivan was a stolen vehicle.

Officers in a half-dozen police cruisers surrounded the minivan shortly after 6 a.m. Friday as a man in shorts and a T-shirt got out and was forced to lay spread-eagle on the freeway. The stop was carried live on KTLA.

Next, a woman in the passenger seat got out. Three others were then seen climbing out of the minivan, which had camping gear tied to the roof and a cooler in the rear cargo area.

All five were briefly taken into custody on the northbound freeway just past Rinaldi Street. They were quickly released when it became clear the van was not the stolen vehicle police were seeking, said LAPD Capt. Matt Blake.

"It turned out it was a nice family," Blake said. "The minivan thief had swapped license plates with their van recently ... They'd driven the van without noticing the changed plate."

Blake said the swapped license plate indicated the vehicle was stolen, which prompted an LAPD cruiser to start following the minivan on the 10 Freeway before it transitioned to the 405 Freeway. Officers waited to stop the vehicle until a department helicopter was overhead.

Police cars with their lights on followed the vehicle for several minutes before the minivan driver realized the cruisers and spotlight were meant for him.

The stop was handled following standard procedures, and the family was quickly sent on its way once officers determined it was not related to the stolen vehicle, Blake said.

Officers are continuing to look for the stolen minivan, he said.

-- Richard Winton

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