Police car thief was a suicide

By Carolyn Barbre

Cliff Anthony Pruitt was a man already in desperate straits when, while on the run from authorities and after having carjacked a Strathmore man's car which he abandoned in Lindsay, he jumped into a running police cruiser on Samoa Street and took off.

Pruitt headed east on Tulare Road and in no time at all found himself crossing a private little bridge over the Friant-Kern Canal after which he promptly got stuck in the mud. Sheriff's department and police personnel were fast on his trail.

It was about 4 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 15. Pruitt was wanted on suspicion of homicide in Stanislaus County on Nov. 22, 2003. Leads had taken detectives to a home in Terra Bella earlier that day, which lead them to another home in Strathmore and resulted in the arrests of four people for harboring a wanted felon along with a wanted parolee who was also arrested.

Now it was just Pruitt and a whole lot of armed police personnel. Neighbors reported a few shots fired initially, followed shortly by a "volley of gunfire."

The next day the Tulare County Sheriff's Department stated in a press release, "an autopsy is pending as is the cause of death."

One week later, the following Friday, officials said Pruitt had managed to unlock a shotgun from it's mount in the patrol car and shot himself in the head.

The number of shots fired at the suspect is still being determined, as is whether Pruitt fired at deputies.

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