Witness Accounts Vary on Cops' Response at Fatal Chase Crash

Two cars street racing on SR-78 prompted police pursuit in Oceanside

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The driver who led police on a high-speed chase and crashed, injuring himself and killing a passenger, was heard saying someone was laughing at him while he was trapped in the vehicle according to several witnesses.

    Two cars were street racing at speeds over 100 miles per hour on State Route 78 according to California Highway Patrol officers.

    Witness Accounts Vary on Cops Response at Fatal Chase Crash

    [DGO] Witness Accounts Vary on Cops Response at Fatal Chase Crash
    Investigators tell NBC 7 reporter Steven Luke that a man who allegedly drove under the influence failed to stop in an Oceanside neighborhood. (Published Saturday, Nov 17, 2012)

    An officer spotted the 1991 Honda Civic racing a dark colored sedan in the westbound lanes near College Boulevard in Oceanside.

    The sedan slowed but the driver of the Honda took off on residential streets at Mission Avenue going 80 miles per hour officers said.

    1 Killed in Fatal Police Pursuit

    [DGO] 1 Killed in Fatal Police Pursuit
    Officers on the scene of a fatal police pursuit in Oceanside. There were two witnesses who claimed they heard officers laughing at the driver injured in the crash. Sandra Zamarripa talks with a news photographer about what she saw moments after the crash. (Published Friday, Nov 16, 2012)

    Then while traveling on Mesa Drive, the Civic hit two dips, fishtailed and crashed into a parked truck, killing the passenger instantly.

    The driver, Jorge Luis Lopez of Oceanside, was injured in the crash. The passenger has not been identified.

    Sandra Zamarripa said she witnessed what happened after the crash and claims she heard officers laughing at the driver who was screaming for help.

    She heard screeching of tires and a loud smack.

    “You could hear the young man screaming, 'Kill me too,'” Zamarripa told NBC 7 San Diego. “They went up to the young man and told him that he had just killed his best friend, he was dead and they were smirking at him.”

    “He just started screaming ‘What are you laughing at? What are you laughing at?’ They were laughing," she said.

    It's not clear at this time, if Zamarippa saw a CHP officer or an Oceanside Police officer.

    A neighbor who said he could see the rescue of the driver from his driveway about 100 feet from the crash scene said he also heard the driver complaining about being mocked.

    After officers approached the vehicle, the man said he couldn't hear the exchange but soon afterwards, the driver began screaming.

    "The driver was cursing and asking officers ‘What the f--- are you laughing at?,” said the man who asked not to be identified.

    However, he said the driver cared only about the condition of his car.

    "His only concern was his car. ‘My car, my car, my car,’" said the witness.

    He said he heard officers ask the driver, “'What about your friend?'” referring to the deceased passenger.

    The man recalled seeing five CHP officers and two Oceanside police officers around the vehicle.

    “They were really calm so I couldn't hear them," he said. "I could see the expressions on their faces and they were all business.”

    A third neighbor, Shauna Haley, said she didn’t hear officers laughing but did hear the driver ask officers to shoot him.

    Around 1 a.m., Haley heard the sound of a car speeding down Mesa followed by sirens and a loud crash. She recalled 10 police cars surrounding the crashed car.

    From where she was standing, she could only see the driver and the officers, however she said there were so many onlookers, the driver may have been speaking to someone standing on the street.

    “I certainly didn’t see any police acting inappropriate at all,” she said.

    She said it took firefighters a long time to demolish the vehicle and remove the deceased man from the wreckage.

    "They dismantled the car. They took great care in taking care of getting that second person out of the car," Haley said.

    Oceanside police responded to the criticism of officers' reaction with this statement:

    "The Oceanside Police Department strives for professionalism in all matters. If this indeed is the case, this is something we absolutely do not tolerate. We will be looking into it as the investigation continues."

    The OPD conducted a preliminary investigation of the alleged misconduct. They reviewed CHP video footage and spoke to several witnesses in the neighborhood. They determined there was no evidence that the officers behaved inappropriately.

    "They're compassionate people," said the witness who asked not to be identified. "But when somebody kills somebody and then his only concern is about his vehicle, how would that make you? I wouldn't be real compassionate to that dude."

    Investigators say alcohol was a factor in the collision. Lopez faces several felony charges including evading, felony DUI and vehicular manslaughter according to the CHP.

    “He was lucky they were there. It was senseless, absolutely senseless,” the man continued.

    The dark colored sedan was not wanted at this time.

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