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A 34-year-old Millbrae man was arraigned Monday afternoon on felony charges of assaulting and evading police officers in connection with an incident in San Bruno just hours after Thursday night’s massive explosion and fire.

Shortly after midnight Friday morning, Paul Lee was driving around San Bruno on his motorcycle in an area near where “fires were still raging” from the explosion hours earlier in the Crestmoor Canyon neighborhood of San Bruno, San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Lee, who had a female companion on the back of the motorcycle, was stopped by police officers who were looking for potential looters in the area, Wagstaffe said.

When an officer shined his flashlight on Lee and asked him to show identification and what he was doing in the area, he said he was from San Francisco – he is actually from Millbrae – and that “he wanted to look around” at the site of the explosion, Wagstaffe said.

The disaster, believed to have been caused by the explosion of a natural gas pipeline, killed at least four people and injured more than 50 others. The blast and ensuing fire destroyed 37 houses and damaged eight others.

While being questioned about his reason for being in the area, Lee allegedly accelerated on the motorcycle, and the officer grabbed him by the elbow or shoulder. His foot was run over by the motorcycle.

The officer was taken to Seton Medical Center with sever swelling in his foot, but the incident did not cause any permanent injury, Wagstaffe said.

After allegedly running over the officer’s foot, Lee fled on his motorcycle, riding over curbs and in between cars on San Bruno city streets until he got onto southbound U.S. Highway 101 and drove down to San Carlos, where the motorcycle eventually came to a stop.

Wagstaffe said investigators did not yet know if the vehicle ran out of gas or if Lee’s female companion was able to convince him to end the pursuit.

Lee was arrested, and on Monday afternoon, he was arraigned in San Mateo County Superior Court on felony charges of evading police officers, assaulting a police officer, and assault with a deadly weapon, Wagstaffe said.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains in custody on $50,000 bail.
Lee’s next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 23 for a preliminary hearing.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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