- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—CONCORD — What started as a routine test drive Monday at a Concord car dealership escalated into a kidnapping of the salesperson, a frantic escape by the employee and finally a police chase and crash, authorities said.

While police are not naming the suspect, the victim’s boss said his sales associate easily identified the customer-turned kidnapper. You see, the man had left his driver’s license with the dealership before the test drive and the business made a copy.

“Obviously, he’s not the sharpest person,” said Carl Rogers, general sales manager at Lehmer’s Concord Buick GMC, who recounted the harrowing tale and test-drive kidnapping that went very wrong.

The suspect was arrested by Antioch police on suspicion of kidnapping, resisting arrest and stealing a car, and the investigation is ongoing, Concord police Lt. Ivan Menchaca said.

The incident began shortly before 3 p.m. at the dealership in the 1900 block of Market Street, adjacent to Highway 242, after the suspect had already taken an uneventful test drive in a Cadillac SRX, Rogers said. Per policy, the salesman had taken the suspect’s driver’s license, made a copy and returned the ID to the man, Rogers said.

The suspect then asked to test drive a $70,000 2015 conversion van because it would accommodate his large family. The pair drove to Pittsburg because the suspect said he wanted to show his family the vehicle before purchasing it and they did just that, arriving at the man’s house where family members looked the van over, Rogers said.

The suspect went inside his house one last time to get his purported down payment and when they started driving again, the atmosphere quickly changed.

“He told him it was a robbery and he couldn’t leave the car and he had too much information already,” Rogers said. “He would tell him, ‘I’ll kill you if you tell anyone.’ “

The man started running red lights and driving erratically, but when he slowed for traffic, Rogers said his sales associate jumped out of the car and ran, before calling police.

“He’s a little shaken up,” Rogers said of his salesman who had only worked at the dealership a few months.

Menchaca said Concord police were dispatched to Pittsburg shortly after the escape around 3:06 p.m. Witness reports on social media and Rogers described a chaotic finale where the suspect crashed the van following a police chase, before he was apprehended by Antioch police.

Concord police are asking anyone with information on the strange case to contact them at 925-671-3030 or on the anonymous tip line at 925-603-5836.

In addition to leaving his actual ID with the dealership, the suspect chose the least maneuverable vehicle on the lot and one low on gas, Rogers said, questioning the suspect’s motive.

“Usually,” the veteran car salesman said, “you don’t go on a test drive, kidnap the sales person and lead police on a chase.”

Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.

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(c)2015 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

Visit the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.) at www.contracostatimes.com

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