California dreams end in nightmare for woman charged in violent wrong-way 405 Freeway crash

Like countless others before her, Lisa Ann Heflin of Oakview, Mo., headed to Los Angeles earlier this year chasing a dream of fame and fortune.

What she found instead was notoriety.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has identified Heflin, 41, as the driver of a white van that plowed into oncoming traffic on the 405 Freeway last week after crashing into several police cruisers and leading police on a wild pursuit.

The office on Wednesday charged Heflin with 10 counts of assault upon a peace officer, four counts of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle while driving recklessly and one count of hit-and-run driving resulting in property damage.

"It was remarkable,” Los Angeles Police Deputy Assistant Chief Daniel Randolph said of the pursuit during Tuesday's Police Commission meeting. Nine LAPD officers were injured, and the driver caused more than $150,000 in damage to five police vehicles, he said.

A long, silver camping trailer and a passenger car are parked along a sidewalk where someone's bedding is laid out.
The driver who led police on a pursuit on the 405 Freeway on May 17 lived in her van for about a month near this intersection at Rose and 3rd Avenues in Venice. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

A mother of four, Heflin documented much of her journey west on Facebook, X and TikTok. She apparently made it to Los Angeles without her kids, who range in age from elementary school to a teenager; according to relatives, Heflin did not have full custody of them.

In her posts, Heflin wears her hair long and dark. She smiles in her photos, appearing composed — a far cry from the bloodied person who was photographed after crashing on the 405 Freeway.

"Chasin my dreams as a 'California Daydreamer,'" she wrote in herTikTok bio.

Read more: Motorist leads police on violent high-speed chase, drives wrong way on 405 Freeway before crashing

Heflin also posted photos of her children on social media. In recent weeks, friends and family in Missouri commented on her posts, concerned about her well-being.

Someone wrote under her most recent post: "Haven't heard from you in almost a week. Seriously getting worried. Hope your ok."

Heflin wrote dozens of messages a day in the weeks leading up to the pursuit. Some of her earlier Facebook posts included links to music videos for artists like Eminem, Tupac Shakur, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and Nickelback. But her later messages became frantic in tone, interspersed with photos in and around Los Angeles.


"DO NOT COME SPEAK TO ME FOR ANY REASON," she wrote in another post.

In a Facebook message posted May 9, she compared herself to rappers Tupac Shakur and Eminem and spoke of being persecuted. In that message, first reported by LA Magazine, Heflin argued about music on the radio, made several comments about "attempted murder" on the road and other veiled threats, and accused unnamed people of doing terrible things to get closer cozying up to celebrities. She ended with the question, "Do you like my van?" — which family members believe was where she was living.

Read more: An L.A. family horror: Children pushed out of moving car on 405, mother dead, partner fatally stabbed

One person living in a van near where Heflin parked in Venice, who identified himself only as Greg, said he spoke to her on a few occasions, but she appeared to be under the influence of drugs and was incoherent at times. "You can't help but speak to someone like that when you're all parked close together," Greg said.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Traci Park's office said a member with a homeless outreach group contracted with the city offered Heflin "services and housing solution." A spokesperson for her office said they could not disclose specific details about the services but said Park's office remains "committed to addressing the needs of our community through continuous support and outreach."

Hours after the pursuit, Park wrote in a Facebook post: "This is the failed social experiment unfolding in real time. This is not a housing crisis, it is a behavior crisis. We need the resources and legal tools to get unstable, dangerous people out of our neighborhoods. Those who refuse services continually cannot choose to remain on the streets, terrorizing neighborhoods, and in this case, endangering lives."

The events that led to the crash, which destroyed two private vehicles and several LAPD cruisers, began just after 4:30 a.m. Friday.

The LAPD responded to 3rd and Rose avenues in Venice amid reports of a woman acting erratically. When officers arrived, the woman argued with police while standing next to a white van that was parked diagonally toward the curb, according to residents.

"She woke me up from a dead sleep yelling in the middle of the street," said Greg, who was parked in his van a few yards from Heflin's. The parking spots along Rose Avenue between 3rd and 4th avenues feel safer than other parts of the beach-side communities, he said, because the street is well lighted next to a storage-unit business.

Police tried to calm her, Greg said, but she continued to argue.

Read more: A woman was killed walking on the freeway. The CHP is looking for the driver who hit her

Janice James, 58, a musician living in her car around the corner from where the white van had been parked, said she saw the woman jump into the van that morning and rev the engine several times before pulling out of the parking spot.

A woman, her face not visible, sits in the dirver's seat of a car, the door ajar as a guitar lies on the the car's roof.
Janet James, 58, who didn't want her face photographed, said Wednesday that she was worried on the day of the incident about her car getting hit, with all the commotion taking place behind her at the intersection of Rose and 3rd Avenues in Venice. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

"That's when she floored it in reverse and just rammed that police SUV," James said. "That shook them up because the SUV moved about two or three feet."

James was afraid the woman in the van would hit other cars as she sped down the narrow street about 50 mph.

"I wouldn't want to lose my car," James said Wednesday morning.

James said she saw video of the police chase as the woman drove erratically before crashing into police vehicles. Authorities tried to get the van off the road with multiple maneuvers that were ineffective.

"She could have made a great stuntwoman driver," James said.

Police say Heflin got onto the 405 Freeway and began driving in the wrong direction. She eventually crashed into two cars and a tractor-trailer that had stalled on the freeway.

Motorist David Hill jumped out of his car after the white van crashed into him.

"When that van came to a stop, I wasn’t sure who was inside, what they were going to do, if they were going to come out and try to steal my car," Hill told KTTV-TV. "So I immediately got out of my car and came to the shoulder and just waited while police apprehended that suspect."

Authorities say Heflin jumped out and climbed onto the hood of the semi as police swarmed her and took her into custody.

During a court hearing Wednesday, Heflin pleaded not guilty to all charges. She's due back in court on June 20 and is being held in lieu of $695,000 bail.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.