The good Samaritan nurse left the keys in her car and ran across the street to help, police said. But Deserie Guzman allegedly hopped in to the nurse's car and started the engine.
When the nurse ran back and tried to grab the keys, Guzman allegedly hit the gas, police said. The nurse was dragged about 20 yards until she fell, hit her head on the pavement and blacked out.
"I don't know if she was holding on, trying to turn the car off, or got stuck on the steering wheel and couldn't get loose," Ortega said. "She wasn't clear on that because she was knocked out."
Guzman, 28, sped off toward the freeway, hit another car about a mile away and tried to flee on foot, he said.
Two men who saw what happened followed Guzman up an Interstate 10 onramp and offered her a ride, Ortega said.
"They didn't see the first incident and thought she was trying to flee the scene of the accident. So they wanted her to think they're helping her out," he said.
Guzman got in the backseat, he said. The two men tried to take her to a California Highway Patrol station on the freeway, but it was closed. They returned to the scene of the first accident and flagged down police, who arrested Guzman.
Jasen Jack, 27, of Atlanta, who caused the original accident, was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
The pedestrian who was hit with the traffic signal pole died. The nurse suffered minor injuries.