Mariposa & Yosemite

Police chase of Merced driver ends near Mariposa

Merced police and the California Highway Patrol said they arrested a Mariposa resident on several traffic charges and evading peace officers after an 80 mph chase from Merced to Mariposa.

Warren B. Fithian, 28, was taken into custody after the high-speed pursuit and charged with felony evasion of officers, driving with a suspended license and failing to stop at a stop sign. The CHP impounded his vehicle.

Drugs or alcohol weren't involved in the incident, and there were no injuries. A CHP officer did fire his shotgun at the pickup, striking it near the driver.

Merced Police Officer John Pinnegar was patrolling east central Merced when he saw an older model gray Chevrolet pickup fail to stop at a stop sign. Authorities said Pinnegar chased the vehicle on Yosemite Park Way, but Fithian allegedly increased his speed to 70. Pinnegar said his patrol vehicle's lights and siren were on.

Field training officer Frank Bazzar joined the pursuit, which by then was heading east on Highway 140 from Merced's city limits. Merced Police Sgt. Rod Court also joined in as Fithian upped his speed to 80, police said.

As Fithian neared Catheys Valley, Merced officers notified the CHP. Traffic was light on the highway, and CHP officers were able to deploy spike strips to deflate the tires of the suspect's truck as he neared Mariposa.

The CHP reported that the truck slowed near School House Road at a roadblock, then speeded up toward one of its officers. That officer fired a shotgun once, striking the vehicle near the driver.

The pickup continued on 140 toward the top of Guadalupe Grade, where it crossed the CHP spike strip. After all four tires were deflated, Fithian stopped in the oncoming traffic lane on the highway and surrendered to Merced police and CHP officers.

Officers took Fithian to the Merced Police Department for an interview. There he allegedly said he didn't want to stop for officers because his driver's license was suspended.

He was booked into Merced County Jail.

Executive Editor Mike Tharp can be reached at

(209) 385-2427/2456 or