Officer rescues drowning felon, arrests him

Man tried to flee police by swimming across San Francisquito Creek during a high tide on Tuesday

A wanted felon who attempted to escape police Tuesday by swimming across San Francisquito Creek at the Palo Alto Baylands during high tide went underwater halfway, only to be rescued by an officer, pulled back to shore, arrested and later booked into jail, police said.

The man, 53-year-old Menlo Park resident Lee James Daniels, was on probation and had an outstanding warrant out for his arrest.

Lee James Daniels of Menlo Park tried to flee Palo Alto police Jan. 28 by swimming across San Francisquito Creek at a high tide. He was later booked into jail.
At about 9:32 a.m. on Jan. 28, an officer on patrol saw Daniels riding a bicycle on Embarcadero Road near East Bayshore Road. The two made eye contact, after which Daniels rode into an office complex in the 1700 block of Embarcadero and disappeared, police said. The police officer found his abandoned bicycle soon after and confirmed Daniels was wanted on a felony probation-violation warrant and a misdemeanor warrant for giving false information to police.

Other officers joined in the search and one spotted Daniels running westbound on the levee behind the Baylands Athletic Center at 1900 Geng Road. The officer chased him on foot until Daniels jumped into the creek and started to swim across it northbound, towards East Palo Alto. About halfway across, police said he went underwater and did not resurface.

Police said high tide Tuesday morning was at 10:08 a.m. and that it can be up to 10 feet deep in that part of the creek. The officer, thinking Daniels could be drowning, jumped in to bring him back to shore.

Another officer pulled his partner up to the levee, but Daniels refused any help and instead rested against the nearly vertical embankment at the shore. Police said the levee was about 10 to 12 feet above water level at this time, so there was no safe way for them to pull Daniels back up to the levee, as he continued to refuse to get out of the creek.

A Palo Alto Fire Department crew arrived and used a rope rescue system to physically lower an officer down the steep embankment. He placed a harness on Daniels and firefighters pulled both of them back up, after which Daniels was arrested "without incident," police stated in a press release.

Daniels complained of pain from injuries in his leg and head from jumping into the creek. He was medically evaluated at Stanford Hospital before being taken to Santa Clara County Main Jail. He was booked for misdemeanor resisting arrest and is also on probation in San Mateo County for a prior narcotics possession conviction.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the Palo Alto Police Department's 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.


Like this comment
Posted by taser
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2014 at 9:49 am

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Great job!
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 31, 2014 at 11:07 am

Dear PAPD,

Ignore the earlier and any future comments from the haters and instead celebrate the fact you saved a life.


Like this comment
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2014 at 11:13 am

It's hard to imagine an officer loaded down with his equipment would be able to swim very well. Jumping in to save a wanted felon shows a strong desire to do make our community better and to protect everyone.

Like this comment
Posted by Raymond
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2014 at 12:41 pm

I'm typically critical, but that's good police work.

Like this comment
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Amazing!!! Just amazing work on the part of the police and fire departments. I, too, wondered how that police officer jumped into the water and swam with all his gear on. Above and beyond the call of duty! ; )

Like this comment
Posted by Nothing but praise
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2014 at 3:26 pm

The officer did exactly the right thing: he made saving a life the top priority, dealing with the felony second.

This is worth the highest praise, since the officer put his own life in danger to do the right thing.

Like this comment
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 31, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Bravo PAPD

Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Finally - I've been wondering since Tuesday what was going on Tuesday morning at Geng road, when I arrived for an Avenidas hike along the creek. This guy got a lot of attention - two fire trucks, at least 5 police cars, and a park ranger. I'm glad no one was seriously injured. Good work on the part of Palo Alto's police and fire department.

Like this comment
Posted by Emilia
a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Top notch work to PA police office that jumped into the creek! Recognition required for bravery.

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