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Copper piping thief tries to flee across Tustin freeway, is killed

A 32-year-old man died Monday while he was attempting to cross a freeway in Orange County after apparently trying to steal copper piping from a local business.

The crash occurred around 11:35 a.m. along northbound Highway 55 near 1st Street in Tustin, according to California Highway Patrol records.

The man, identified as Alberto Huizar, 32, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Huizar appeared to be homeless, authorities said.

Lt. Ryan Coe, a spokesman for the Tustin Police Department, said that, several minutes prior to the crash, Huizar was seen on the roof of the building at the intersection of 1st and Yorba streets throwing copper piping down into a shopping cart. A witness later reported that Huizar was pushing the cart full of copper piping away from the building.

When police arrived, Huizar stopped pushing the cart and hopped a fence bordering the freeway. Coe said police stopped following Huizar and notified California Highway Patrol. As he attempted to cross the freeway, Huizar was hit and killed by an oncoming car.

Huizar’s death marked a tragic outcome in the latest instance of copper theft in California, a rising crime trend in the state. Earlier this year, L.A. Metro attributed delayed trains in the South Bay to copper wire thefts, and last year a pilot program was launched to protect the city’s street lights from copper wire thieves.

“Copper thefts are unfortunately very prevalent,” Coe said, adding that the stolen copper piping was recovered and returned to the business.

The crash is under investigation by the California Highway Patrol. The driver was uninjured, and no other vehicles were involved in the crash.

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