A rape suspect died after drinking cyanide during a freeway chase in Southern California, authorities said. Jonathan Hanks, 33, was pronounced dead at the scene on Interstate 101. Picture: Christian Martinez/The Ventura County Star via AP
Ventura, California - The police were coming with questions about a 14-year-old girl, Snapchat and a motel room. Jonathan Hanks did not wait for the knock on his door.

The 33-year-old from Camarillo, California, climbed behind the wheel of his black Nissan Versa on Wednesday morning, leaving his apartment before law enforcement arrived.

"We were planning on executing a search warrant and to take him into custody and arrest him," detective Ninette Toosbuy, a supervisor with the sex crimes division of the Los Angeles Police Department, told the Ventura County Star. Instead, Southern California authorities were led on a chaotic rush hour car chase that ended with Hanks drinking a deadly dose of poison.

When he ran from his apartment, Hanks steered his Nissan onto the 101 Freeway, the roaring Mississippi of rush hour traffic cutting through much of Southern California. By 7:30 a.m., LAPD had alerted the California Highway Patrol that the suspect was running. He was quickly located heading northbound on the freeway in Ventura County, the Star reported. Hanks did not stop when officers flashed their lights. For six miles, as the freeway skirted past palm-studded foothills under a postcard sunny blue sky, police pursued the Nissan.

Traffic is backed up on Interstate 101 after a vehicle chase by the California Highway Patrol ended in Ventura, California.
Traffic is backed up on Interstate 101 after a vehicle chase by the California Highway Patrol ended in Ventura, California. Picture: Christian Martinez/The Ventura County Star via AP
"Our primary officer observed him drinking something out of a large container," CHP Investigator Christopher Terry told NBC4 News. "He started driving a little erratically."

Hanks's Nissan, which had been motoring up the 101's right-hand lane, then drifted across two lanes of traffic before bumping to a stop at the median dividing north and southbound traffic. Police and emergency crews surrounded the car, spotting Hanks slumped over in the driver's seat.

According to the Star, one of the responding officers smashed open the Nissan's passenger window, pulling the suspect out of the vehicle. Hanks, however, was already dead. Inside the car, police discovered the container from which he had been drinking.

"It was tested by Ventura city fire department, their hazmat team," Terry explained to NBC4. "It was confirmed as sodium chloride and potassium cyanide."

Following the chase, the busy freeway snagged as investigators closed lanes in both directions, the Associated Press reported. Hanks's body, lying under a blanket, was visible to the news helicopters beating overhead.

Authorities have not revealed how Hanks was tipped off that police were set to make an arrest Wednesday morning. According to the Star, the rape investigation began last month, when the mother of a 14-year-old girl contacted police after the teen claimed Hanks had been communicating on Snapchat and lured her to a motel in the Reseda neighborhood of Los Angeles. He allegedly raped the girl there, police said.

"There was physical evidence on her to substantiate the allegation," LAPD sex crimes supervisor Toosbuy told the paper. Hanks had no prior criminal record.

The Washington Post