Felon arrested after pursuit when stolen Tesla batteries die

Reader Warren E writes:

The headline says it all. Stole a Tesla. High speed chase. Battery died. Thief apprehended.
An ultimate range anxiety story.

From The Riverside County News Source

February 21, 2019 Trevor Montgomery 2 comments

RIVERSIDE — A probationer who led Riverside police officers on a dangerous, high-speed pursuit in a luxury electric sports car was arrested after the plug-in car’s batteries died Sunday night, Feb. 17. The pursuit, which wound its way from Riverside’s Eastside neighborhood into Orange County, ended in a felony stop on the 91 Freeway.


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Riverside police officers were first alerted to the vehicle theft around 7:45 p.m., after the owner of an electric-powered Tesla called 911 to report his car had just been stolen from a parking garage on the 1400 block of Everton Pl.

With an app available to Tesla owners, the victim was able to track his stolen vehicle from his phone, and immediately began providing officers with “real-time” updates of the car’s movements, Riverside PD later explained.

Based on those updates, a responding officer quickly spotted the car as it was exiting the 91 Freeway at Adams St. But as officers prepared to conduct a traffic stop, the driver of the stolen vehicle, later identified as Filiberto Felix, 30-years-old of Riverside, refused to yield and sped away from officers.

Officials initiated a vehicle pursuit that first traveled through the city streets. Felix then got back onto the freeway before once again exiting at Magnolia Ave. The fleeing man continued to lead officers on pursuit as he traveled up La Sierra Ave. to Cajalco Rd., then to the 15 Freeway.

During the chase, Felix drove without regard for the safety of officers or other citizens and the ground pursuit was eventually deemed too dangerous to continue and patrol officers backed out of the chase; allowing the department’s Air Support Unit, “Air-1” to take over.

Felix eventually got onto the westbound 91 freeway and headed into Orange County, where the luxury car’s batteries eventually died, leaving the fleeing man stranded. With his stolen ride’s batteries dead, CHP quickly moved in and conducted a high-risk stop and arrested the car thief. CHP later turned the alleged suspect over to RPD officers.

We don’t know if all the high-speed and reckless driving caused the Tesla’s battery to go low, or if it didn’t have a full charge when stolen, but the owner said the battery was dying which caused the driver to stop on the freeway,” RPD later explained.

Full story here

174 thoughts on “Felon arrested after pursuit when stolen Tesla batteries die

    • Pretty sophisticated software in those Teslas. They are soon going to give the ICEs a run for their money.

      • Electric vehicles are nice, particularly if you can afford more than one type of vehicle. I still need my F-250 to tow our travel trailer and I wouldn’t mind at all having an electric vehicle, but I can’t afford both.

        • With the F-250, you could also have a vehicle trailer so you could tow the Tesla around. That way you would always be sure that you and your Tesla got to your destination. Range anxiety would be a thing of the past.

          • Better still, put a wind turbine on the F-250 so you can recharge the Tesla for free while you’re towing it.

          • They are soon going to give the ICEs a run for their money.

            If you can not out run Highway Patrol, you are not going to get away from ICE either. 😉

            Hey dude, next time you steal a car, steal one with a full tank. Or at least on that HAS a tank you can fill.

          • A better option is to get a towbar fitted to the Tesla and tow a portable generator on a trailer which charges the Tesla whilst you drive.

            Problem solved 🙂

          • The F250 would also give tou the cargo load to haul around a Diesel Gene to recharge your Tesla virtually anyplace

        • I’ll bet there is a built-in function which the police can invoke if they want to: dial a number and the vehicle stops.

          • I’ll bet there isn’t. …and for very good reasons.
            Furthermore I could not think of a more incapable group to have control over a moving vehicle, than some government desk jockeys. They will invariably input the wrong codes and stop the wrong vehicles thereby creating life-threatening safety hazards where none should exist. If you think that it merely stops the vehicle, imagine what may happen if the vehicle stops in a dangerous area where the occupants lives are immediately endangered such as the freeway or busy intersection.

            There is no such thing as a nonlethal weapon for all circumstances. What do you think will happen to an individual that is walking down a flight of stairs when they get “stunned”… or stepping off the curb into traffic?

          • Rocketscientist

            I disagree. Having this option will save more lives than hurt more lives. You should be able to remotely speed-limit the car, or “AI-self-drive” the car to a safe spot off the freeway (touch the map somewhere and the car drives there – like Kitt in Knightrider). Also, you could simply tie it the owners smartphone, i.e. only the owner can ‘kill’ his own car. And every time you use this function it is reported to the police automatically, so they know something serious is going on.

          • Nigel – That is one of the features of On-Star (though they have to be the ones to slow the stolen vehicle down.)

          • @Rocketscientist

            ‘They will invariably input the wrong codes and stop the wrong vehicles thereby creating life-threatening safety hazards where none should exist.”

            Since when has that ever stopped any level of government from doing something stupid?

        • Well, you have to admit that your F-250 is far more likely to be stolen. Not every car thief out there is as stupid as this guy, after all.

          Buy a real truck anywhere along the southern border, you are an idiot if you don’t get the tracking option on it. With luck, the cops will manage to catch up with it before it gets to Guadalajara.

      • I doubt it. Any good software could be added to any new ICE, but batteries are still a long ways from replacing ICE.

      • Pretty sophisticated software in ICE cars as well.
        No software is capable of over coming the limitations of batteries.

      • You can track your own ICE if you want. People do it all of the time to catch significant others who are cheating.

    • From 1934:

      Tulsa Okla
      10th April
      Mr. Henry Ford
      Detroit Mich.

      Dear Sir: –

      While I still have got breath in my lungs I will tell you what a dandy car you make. I have drove Fords exclusivly when I could get away with one. For sustained speed and freedom from trouble the Ford has got ever other car skinned and even if my business hasen’t been strickly legal it don’t hurt enything to tell you what a fine car you got in the V8 –

      Yours truly

      Clyde Champion Barrow

    • I can’t understand why people believe they can escape from the police. There are enough police agencies and police cars that the pursuers never run out of battery or run out of gas – they just bring fresh cars to the chase. Plus, of course, they have air cover as well.

      • General Motors’ OnStar service not only can feed vehicle location data directly to law enforcement, it also has a feature to allow, at the very least, slowing the car down so the police do not have to chase it high speeds.

        Tesla? Duffers!

        • Turns out OnStar service is not all it is cracked up to be. It is a factory installed option in my 2004 VW V10. It doesn’t work and never has since I owned the car – 5 yrs now. It won’r ‘talk’ to the cell towers since it uses a cell technology no longer supported by ANY cell service provider. NO update was ever offered for that car. If i push the button in the car, it works and tries to connect but cannot ‘find’ anyone or anything to connect to. So much fro the value of OnStar!

      • My father volunteered with the local Sheriffs Aero Squadron. After spending an afternoon following a car around doing drug deals, I asked how they could circle around all that time and not get spotted. “Dumb crooks never look up.”

        • Dumb groundhogs don’t either. I had a burrow full in my flower garden and I only finally got them all by putting and climbing a step ladder right over the opening – and waiting. One by one they would pop up and look AROUND. Almost felt sorry for them but I liked my flowers and vegi garden more, a LOT more.

  1. A word to the guy who leaves the parking garage and gets stranded in 90 degree or 0 degree weather: Get a Tahoe.

    • I’ll add that to the advice for criminals that Charles Barkley recently gave (if you’re gonna break the law do not write a check).

    • And if there’s more than 2 of you –get a 4-door car.

      My (UK) 1976 Ford Capri was a 2-door hatchback. It was stolen from outside church one Sunday morning. A couple of months later, it was recovered by the police “during apprehension of suspects in a robbery”. The 3 gentlemen made it out of the bank with the money, but were too slow getting into the 2-door car to achieve a getaway. The 4th member of the group was the “getaway” driver who apparently was not willing to get out of the car to assist.

  2. It could have been worse. He could have put it on autopilot and crashed into a bridge abutment and killed somebody.

  3. Here’s one for automation. 60 Minutes did a piece on electric cars in China. One company, Nio, does service on site for Nio owners. Battery swap is completely automated and executed in 3 minutes.

    Take that GM, Ford, Chrysler etc – you could have been making tons of money on consumables like this long ago – instant oil swaps, lubes, filters etc.

    • Who said NIO or the Chinese electric car industry is making money?

      It’s being greatly subsidized by Chinese debt to reward private investors who happen to be party members. It makes sense in the respect that city auto emissions are being reduced. Also, small coal fired power plants within cities are being replaced by larger plants outside.

      It’ll be interesting how this plays out, but the world will end within 12 years, so what difference does it make?

    • Nio’s business plan is novel and interesting, but the cost of the swap-out program is $200/month and has limitations. Still, if you normally drive over 2000 miles a month for your commute, it could be competitive. Their car can go about 180 miles per charge (despite a 300 mile claim). A fast charge takes one hour; standard home charging, nine. With a purchase price >$65,000, I think I’ll stay with an ice vehicle.

      OTOH, if you bought stock in the company last week, you should see some nice profits today.

    • The battery swap may only take 3 minutes (probably longer in snow or rain conditions), but how long does one have to wait for the service to arrive if one is in a Nio, say, 20 miles away from the nearest city having a Nio battery service team?

      Or did your reference to “on site” really mean at any fixed Nio facility equipped to do automated battery swaps?

  4. Um, trying to elude ground based LEO in a congested area is not exactly the smartest move one can make. It becomes a bit difficult to stop and refuel even conventional vehicles, much less an electric one.

    • True, but on a full tank of gas you can get a lot further before needing to refuel. Not that it matters, if you are stupid enough to steal a car and get into a hi-speed chase, you’re gonna get caught it’s just a matter of how soon.

      • Yeah, my uncle, who was an Oklahoma Highway Patrolman at the time, took me for a ride once in his patrol car, a 450 hp Hemi Plymouth Satellite, and after him giving me a demonstration of the car’s acceleration, (which was pretty impressive!) and being a teenager at the time, I popped off and said, “i’ll bet this thing won’t outrun a 427 cu. in.Corvette!”

        And he said, “Yeah, that might be so”, and he reached over and patted his radio, and smiled real big, and said, “but it won’t outrun this!”.

        • The story was in filming “Bullitt”, detective Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) gave chase in his Ford Mustang to the criminal murder suspects (“hitmen”) driving a Chrysler product.

          One of the problems filming the scene was that the “bad guys” driving the Dodge kept losing actor Steve McQueen in the Ford.

  5. How many felons are caught because their ICE runs out of fuel? Seems that the Tesla battery is the same thing, except you can track the car from your cell phone and the range may be shorter.

    • My thoughts, too, but I’ve never heard of it happening during a car chase. Just out of curiosity, has anyone?

      The closest thing I’ve seen was when two thieves stole an antique (1960’s ?) car, then had to abandon it when they couldn’t figure out how to put fuel in it. On that model car, you had to fold down a tail light to get to the gas cap.

      • The 1956 Chevy had a lever built-in to the tail light assembly that, when operated, folded down the entire tail light exposing the furl filler pipe. A feature all of us kids loved to demonstrate to one another.

      • I think the 1956 Chevy had the tank inlet in the tail light.

        Later, Chevy went to behind the license plate holder.

    • That’s what I was wondering. I imagine they have the capability to remotely make a battery go to zero, and maybe that’s what really happened

    • If you remotely disable any Tesla, you very likely disable the electrically-powered/controlled steering and electrically-powered/controlled brakes. Do you really want to do that with a high-speed chase going through a dense urban area?

      I think not.

      • OH GOOD GRIEF.

        And iffen they included a “bomb” in every Tesla, you would very likely cause it to go “BOOM” if you tried to disable the car.

        • The Li-Ion batteries are pretty close to a “bomb” already provided you can externally signal the generation of an ignition event…

      • The stering wheel still works without electric power. It just requires a little more effort to turn it. That isn’t unique to a tesla. All cars with power stering are built that way.

      • If you remotely disable any Tesla, you very likely disable the electrically-powered/controlled steering and electrically-powered/controlled brakes. Do you really want to do that with a high-speed chase going through a dense urban area?

        tech to remotely disable cars (not just EVs like Tesla, but even ICE cars) has been in existence for a few years now and have even been used to end high-speed chases with cars that were so equipped. As John S points out “Nobody here has ever heard of OnStar?”

      • Don’t remotely disable the car just make it go slower. That would make it much safer for everyone. But how do you steal a Tesla without the ‘keys’ ?

        • presumably the same way you steal any car without the “keys” – hotwire it. Or find one that was left running while the owner pops into a store to pick up a few items.

          • John Endicott

            Your second option is plausible.

            The first is not. New cars now have keys equipped with ID chips so only that key (or it’s partner) will start the car. Hot-wiring is now redundant as there is no way to influence the ECU without the chip in the key.

          • It’s plausible, it just requires more sophistication to accomplish (as others mentioned further down the thread – see Gordan’s post for one such example)

      • Update to my post above:

        Yes, upon further research (and thanks to most replies) I found that I was off base.

        One reference states this:
        “Current Tesla cars use four braking systems:
        1) Conventional hydraulic calipers provide ABS braking for the front wheels. These will operate without electricity.
        2) Parking brake/emergency brake calipers are electrically driven. These are also the hill hold assist brakes. They are electrically actuated, but hold mechanically once set.
        3) Motor-actuated “fly by wire” rear brakes. These require electricity.
        4) Regenerative braking converts energy of motion to electricity, using the motor as a generator. These don’t need electricity, but rather generate electricity. In normal use, most braking is regenerative.

        Another reference says that Tesla employs electrically-assisted power steering (EAPS). If electricity to Tesla power systems suddenly fails, the car can still be steered via a mechanical rank-and-pinion steering linkage, but the steering will be much stiffer (i.e., turning the steering wheel will require much greater force).

        I’m not sure if a sudden change in steering force wouldn’t create a high risk for the driver losing control during a high speed chase.

        Thanks to everyone for helping to set me straight!

  6. I’m always disappointed to read the glee at any misfortune involving electric cars. It isn’t a matter of defense, the two modes of propellant can coexist. Electric cars offer real advantages to some people in some cases. Gas cars as you know offer real advantages and are well suited to most driving in the USA. All I am asking is that the people with us vs them attitude lighten up a bit. If a person wants to drive an electric car you should be happy not exhibit mean spirited animosity.

    • A natural response to forced taxpayer subsidies and having politicians cramming them down our throats?

    • bruce r

      I agree with you. Electric vehicles used to outnumber gasoline ones – not so? In some places perhaps, 110 years ago.

      I also agree they should not be subsidized.

      There are electric vehicle recharging stations at the Toronto airport -in the most prized and convenient positions. Recharging is free. That is obscene. Only the rich who can afford such a car get such good parking and why should the plebeians pay for the fuel of the rich? Ultimately, this is a case of climate porn.

    • If a person wants to drive an electric car you should be happy not exhibit mean spirited animosity.

      If they are wanting to drive an electric car without subsidies, tax incentives or other government mandates, then I (and I’m sure most other people here) would be perfectly happy with their choice. But as long as their choice involves government funding and other intervention, then others (especially taxpayers whose money is being used to subsidize) have every right not to be “happy” for them.

      • Ever claimed the child tax credit on your taxes? What about the home mortgage interest deduction? Charitable deduction? If you’re not in the top income tax bracket, your tax burden is basically being subsidized by person’s wealthier than you are because politicians want to spend more than they can equitably draw from everyone.

        I promise, something you do (and likely far more than one single thing) is being subsidized by other people. If you don’t like subsidies, that’s fine and you won’t get any argument from me on that. But transferring your dislike of one particular subsidy to people who benefit from them is silly.

        • Ever claimed the child tax credit on your taxes? What about the home mortgage interest deduction? Charitable deduction?

          Don’t have children, don’t have a mortgage, and don’t itemize. So no dice Kurt. But nice try. The point, you so desperately try to dodge is that EVs are not viable in the current marketplace without huge unwanted government interventions.

  7. The only thing more fitting would been if this thief had been arrested with the assistance of a million volts of a stun gun Taser after his stolen Tesla ran out of juice.

  8. Hint to Tesla production management – – – all Model S, Model X and Model 3 vehicles should have this sticker on the the border of the electronic displays: “WARNING: this vehicle may not be suitable for theft. Please first check the remaining battery charge. Your remaining miles may vary, especially if you drive in ludicrous mode.”

  9. In 20 years, new cars might require electronic kill switches that the police can use to disable any car involved in a high speed chase. Stealing a car will become a lot more problematic as owners will be able to disable them remotely after receiving security notifications.

    • Oh great, another subsystem to fail (or be hacked), leaving a perfectly innocent vehicle operator stranded while legally operating the vehicle. Yet another great idea. And the Big Brother implications are even worse.

      • We have a 1997 Chevy Lumina with an engine in perfectly good working order, that we can’t drive because the electrical system has degraded to the point that it locks out the ignition whenever you try to start it. The anti-theft feature now thinks anyone who tries to drive it must be stealing it. -_-

  10. This is quite puzzling.

    I think it’s safe to say that every car sold now can’t be started without the the ignition key specific to that car. The ignition keys have an ID chip within them which the car identifies. It also makes ‘hot wiring’ redundant as without that ID chip, the ECU won’t operate.

    That being the case, this guy must have stolen the Tesla owners keys then searched for the car.

    Now, forgive me for being a tad cynical, but I would think it reasonable that a car as sophisticated as a Tesla, with self drive, navigation etc. might have a slightly more sophisticated security system than an ignition key. My mobile phone even has fingerprint verification.

    Anyone fancy a trip into space. Elon Musk has space rockets, I guess if you nick the ignition key you’re good to go!

    • If the owner reported that “his car had just been stolen” ….. then he must have watched it happen, ……which infers the owner had gotten out of the vehicle, ….. or was forced out of his vehicle ….. and didn’t remove the “key” when he got out.

      Note to would-be Tesla thieves: Steal owner’s cell phone also.

      • Samuel C Cogar

        Just been stolen is a relative term to a victim.

        “My car’s just been stolen” invariably means I was asleep when my car was stolen and I have just woken up.

        • HotShot, ….. the “just” part of “My car’s just been stolen” infers he seen it happen.

          Which is not the same as saying …… “I just seen it being stolen 10 minutes ago”.

          But whatever you think.

    • Here’s an alternative if the key to the Tesla was not outright stolen: the thief got an ECU and its associated smart key from a “totaled” car of the same model as that he stole. He unlocked the passenger cabin doors using the unlock code he copied by means of an available over-the-air RFID-like code reader (and transmitter) when, sometime previously, he was secretively nearby when the owner unlocked his/her car. I believe the ECU is located underneath the front dash or maybe behind the electronic display, but the thief would know for sure since he likely had to extract it himself from the salvaged Tesla. He just swapped out the original ECU with the one he got from the salvage yard, and then he was good to go.

      • Gordon Dressler

        All that planning, all that effort, all that cunning, all that guile.

        Then he runs out of charge.

        I don’t think so.

        • Criminals can be clever and dumb at the same time. They can meticulously plan their crime and then get tripped up over the stupidest of missed details.

      • Most car thieves aren’t that smart. If they were, they’d white collar criminals or stock brokers.

        • Car thefts have been rising in recent years after years of declining due to anti-theft technology. Thieves find work-arounds. It’s what they do.


          Depending on the design, jamming RFID signals could disable the immobilizer to allow theft of the vehicle. the key’s encryption can be hacked (most car manufacturer’s have been using weak encryption with short encryption keys, relatively easy to brute force hack). etc. No system is unbeatable, and over time enterprising thieves discover ways to beat the system.

          • No security feature can replace paying attention and taking simple precautions against being an easy mark.

            Don’t leave your vehicle unattended when its unlocked and/or running.
            Don’t leave valuable possessions you have inside in plain view.
            In restaurants, get a table where you have a clear window view of your vehicle at all times, if available.
            Write down a manifest of your vehicle’s year, make and model, color, license number, VIN, and descriptions of any possessions you keep inside it and in its trunk/boot. Keep it with your important documents at home. In the event your vehicle or something inside it does get stolen, this will help the police track down and recover your stuff.

        • Most people smart enough to get away with a felony offense have no motivation to commit it, because they can already get what they want legally. So those who turn to crime almost always turn out to be the desperate and/or dumb.

    • As they say: “There’s an app for that”
      They key emits an encoded radio signal, of course. If the signal is bluetooth or some other standard format, you are already half way done. If not, still no matter. You capture the exchange between the key and the car, and echo the keys’ part of the exchange to the car when ready. Many mfgs. are going to electronic keys and thieves are coming up to speed. The required hardware and software put on a portable computing device is just not that hard.

      In the world of “The Internet Of Things”, the systems people are complaining that security is an afterthought, when it is thought of at all. It looks like the automotive sector is no better.

      • TonyL

        As I said to Gordon Dressler, a thief goes to all that trouble, then runs out of charge.

        Please be sensible about this.

        • You’ve obviously never seen any “stupid criminal” videos. Criminal puts on mask, brings gun, holds up teller. Pretty clever so far, right? then he puts gun down on the counter to grab the money in register, clerk grabs gun. Ooops, not so clever. Criminals make stupid mistakes all the time, that’s how many of them get caught despite how “clever” they are in planning their crimes.

          • I read about one robber that decided to rob a bank on his lunch hour. Problem was he forgot to take off his ID badge.

          • Then there’s the criminal who attempted to rob a Chicago muffler shop. The stores clerk told him the money was in a safe that only the manager could open so the would-be thief left them a phone number for them to call him back when the manager returned. Call him they did, when the police where there to apprehend him.

    • You probably don’t realize how many people leave their car unlocked and put the keys under the seat.

    • If it is like Australian Teslas if you get close to the car the fob unlocks it and you can start and drive off fobless … it just puts a symbol up on the dash 🙂

      • a lot of those “keyless” operations require the fob to remain in range (IE in the vehicle as it’s being driven)

  11. If the police were also driving Tesla’s then both the stolen vehicle and police vehicles could have stalled out at the same time.

  12. He could’ve gotten pretty much the same thing for nothing (minus the cops chasing and arresting him, and the jail time) by simply turning up at a Tesla dealership, qualifying himself as a potential purchaser, and grabbing a free test-drive.

    Last I checked, you can own a Tesla without an NICS background-check.

  13. In a year or two it will be a race (to the bottom) between the car thief and the police with everyone using EVs.

    The joke is on the taxpayers though.

  14. Investigators in Davie are looking into a crash involving a Tesla on S Flamingo Road near 10th. Police say officers tried to save the driver but couldn’t open the door because there was not a handle. Car burst into flames. Unclear what led to the single-car crash. @CBSMiami pic.twitter.com/FrbmfOio9r

  15. Caught Warren Buffett on CNBC this morning.

    In a generally favorable comment on EVs, he actually said “I know a lot of people are pushing electric vehicles.”


  16. I love the idea of Battery driven cars, bicycles, wheelchairs, power tools etc.,etc.. but there are reasons I do not own an EV. Listed below in order of importance or close.
    1- Original cost
    2 – Winter
    3 – Range
    4 – Time for refueling
    5 – Lack of recharging stations
    6 – fear of future taxes and electricity costs
    7 – Battery life expectancy
    8 – Availability of service
    9 – Lack of available good used.
    10 – Lack of dealers
    I am sure I missed a few as I did not take much time and I am sure I could make a similar list of reasons to own one but for my amount and type of driving and my location an electric simply makes no sense.

    • Add summer to the list. A few years ago I ran across an EV in the desert. The middle of nowhere, at least a hundred miles from any town of note. It was limping to the next recharge station if there was one. It was over 100 degrees F. I don’t know how much the AC had depleted the charge and reduced the range, but it had developed into a life threatening situation.

      These things are expensive, urban, toys.

  17. Just bought a Pacifica hybrid. I was surprised to see that I can’t tow anything with it.

    Also interesting in that you can program the key fobs to not allow the car to perform certain actions. Like, you can program the fob to keep the speed less than a certain maximum speed or to keep the radio volume down.

    Not really happy with that.

  18. Huh? According to Elon … the thief should have been able to switch into INSANE MODE … and outrun the entire pursuing police force in their oldy-fashioned ICE vehicles …

  19. No need to brick the car, remotely put it in “limp” mode. Everything still works but it decelerates to a predetermined low speed. Easy enough to program into any modern car, EV or ICE. Some already have this mode for when certain codes pop up, allows the owner to limp in without getting stranded on the side of the road.

  20. The owner should have simply turned on the autopilot remotely and told the car to drive the criminal to the nearest police station.

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