It began with a routine stop for an expired car tag. It ended three hours later after a terrifying 200-mile freeway chase through Southern California that was broadcast live on television.

The unidentified motorist, who led police on at least four different freeways before finally confronting officers, was shot dead by authorities Friday.

San Diego Police Lt. Glen Breitenstein said three highway patrol officers and three San Diego officers had fired shots.

The chase began about 6:45 a.m. in San Bernardino County when a sheriff's deputy tried to stop the man in Rancho Cucamonga for expired registration tags, said sheriff's spokesman Chip Patterson.

The man sped off in his white 1979 Datsun 280Z toward Interstate 10 and the deputy called highway patrol officers, who along with various police departments then chased the man through San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, reaching speeds up to 90 miles per hour.

Television news helicopters quickly picked up the chase and broke into other programming to carry it live.

At one point, cameras showed the man smoking a cigarette, checking his pager and scribbling a note, which he tossed from the window.

When he entered San Diego County and appeared to be headed for the U.S.-Mexico border, police deployed a spike strip on Interstate 805 near state Route 94, puncturing his left front tire.

When the man's car rolled to a stop, he displayed a handgun outside the window. He then got out and started walking onto the freeway. There was some discussion with the officers, who had stopped freeway traffic and were out of their cars with their weapons drawn.

"One of the sergeants yelled, 'He's got a gun!' " California Highway Patrol spokesman Phil Konstantine said. "Then shots were fired."

Television cameras in San Diego used a wide-angle shot to show the shooting at a distance. At least one Los Angeles television station, Fox affiliate KTTV, showed a startling close-up of the man being shot, then pulled back to film him on the ground.

"Any time you have live, breaking news, you should err on the side of prudence," said Jim Sanders, news director at San Diego's KNSD-TV, an NBC affiliate. "You do what you can to tell the story without being gratuitously graphic."

In 1998, a man chased by police for more than an hour shot himself in the head after stopping his truck on a Los Angeles freeway.

Some stations broadcast the suicide live and later apologized to viewers for the violent images.

Sanders said carrying such chases live is of news value because they often shut down traffic on major freeways.

A portion of I-805, a major thoroughfare that bypasses downtown San Diego, was closed for seven hours Friday while police investigated the most recent case.