Suspect Arrested After Fatal DUI Crash, Charged with Murder

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Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

SANTA ANA — Pedro Pantoja Jr., 29, of Diamond Bar was charged April 20 with second-degree murder for allegedly triggering a fatal wrong-way crash while eluding police.

Pantoja was arrested on April 18 after he was involved in two crashes. The first crash happened at about 8:45 a.m. at the 2800 block of Park Avenue, near the Costco at the District at Tustin.

David Kawashima, 62, of Orange was killed in the first crash. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

As Tustin police were responding to that accident, the suspect fled. A police pursuit began and it ended with another crash when the suspect, going north in the southbound lanes of Jamboree Road, collided with another vehicle north of Warner Avenue.

Pantoja was arrested by Irvine police on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, causing injury to his passenger while driving under the influence, vehicle theft, a parole violation, and evading a police officer.

Irvine police responded to the second crash scene after their help was requested by Tustin police, as the incident happened on the border of Irvine and Tustin.

Pantoja was hospitalized after he was arrested. A female passenger in the car he was driving was also hospitalized.

Irvine police are requesting that anyone with information on the fatal crash call Detective Roberto Solis at (949) 724-7024. Anonymous tips can also be called in to O.C. Crime Stoppers at (855) 847-6227.

Arraignment for Pantoja, who is being held without bail, was delayed from Tuesday to Wednesday because the defendant was due to undergo surgery at OC Global Medical Center in Santa Ana on Tuesday afternoon.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Brian Orue told Orange County Superior Court Judge Cheri Pham, “He suffered multiple injuries, one being possibly a broken arm.”

Pantoja has a prior felony conviction for leading police on a chase in 2017, and a prior DUI out of Riverside in 2013, Orue said.

Ordinarily, a fatal crash for an impaired driver would lead to a charge of vehicular manslaughter, but state law allows for charges to be upgraded to second-degree murder if a driver has a prior conviction for DUI or is accused of leading police on a chase before the collision.

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