Man Dies After Van He Stole Catches on Fire: Oakland Police

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The driver of a stolen van died Wednesday morning after the vehicle caught fire in East Oakland, police said.

Officers responded to reports of the stolen vehicle about 10:45 a.m. in the 8400 block of Ney Avenue, where they tried to make contact with the man, police said in a news release.

The van, however, drove away and officers set up spike strips to stop it. Patrol cars didn't pursue the van, but a police helicopter monitored the vehicle as it kept driving with punctured tires, and noticed sparks coming from the vehicle.

"It appears that at some point, the tires caught fire," Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said at a news conference Wednesday.

There were accelerants inside the van, and the entire vehicle became engulfed in flames, Armstrong said. The van came to rest near 63rd and Avenal Avenues, about 1 1/2 miles away from where police first spotted it.

The driver, whose name was not released, died inside the vehicle. Two officers were hospitalized for treatment of burns and injuries from attempting to rescue the man, police said.

Armstrong said police did everything possible to avoid a vehicle pursuit. "Unfortunately, this incident ended in the most tragic way."

The incident is being investigated by the department's Internal Affairs Division, Criminal Investigation Division, and Oakland's Community Police Review Agency.

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