An Arlington police detective opened fire on a suspected jewel thief yesterday after the man fled, hopped into the officer's unmarked vehicle and sped toward him, officials said.

The confrontation unfolded about 5:30 p.m. when a patrol officer was called to investigate the theft of earrings from Village Goldsmith Jewelers in the 4000 block of South 28th Street. The officer saw an employee chasing the suspect and grabbed the man, but he broke away and darted across Interstate 395, officials said.

Minutes later, a county police detective spotted the suspect on South 32nd Road and tried to arrest him. After a brief foot chase, the suspect jumped into the detective's gold 1998 Pontiac Grand Prix and tried to speed off, police said. Realizing he had just driven down a dead-end street, the man made a U-turn and sped toward the detective, who fired multiple shots at the vehicle as it headed toward him, police said.

The car fled onto I-395, striking another car and slightly injuring the driver, before disappearing in traffic. Police were still searching last night for the vehicle, which has Virginia license tags YWD-1591. Police described the suspect as a black male in his early to middle twenties, about 6 feet tall and weighing about 150 pounds. He was wearing black shorts, a gray T-shirt and a black fisherman's hat with a white stripe.

Police asked anyone with information to call Arlington County Crimesolvers at 703-522-TIPS.