A young boxing champion from Chula Vista was among the fatalities in a high-speed Border Patrol pursuit, which ended when an SUV careened off Interstate 15.
Israel Caballero, 18, was among three of the four people inside the SUV who were killed when the vehicle went off the freeway last month.
Caballero was the father of a 1-year-old son, and worked as the foreman at a landscape management company, according to his best friend Jorge, who worked alongside him as a landscaper.
"Israel was my best friend," said Jorge, who declined to give his last name. "I would pick him up and we would come here to work together. He was always smiling. He was a great person. He always wanted to have the best things for his kid."
Two agents were patrolling near Deer Springs Road when they decided to run the license plate of a Black GMC Envoy at about 1:05 p.m., said Border Patrol Agent Tekae Michael.
Border Patrol initially said they pursued the SUV because they thought it was connected to a homicide investigation.
"The vehicle had an alert for a suspect, but we have not identified a suspect," a spokesman said Thursday.
Caballero was a talented boxer, according to his head coach, Juan Medina, of the Bound Boxing Academy in Chula Vista.
"It was a shock to me," Medina said. "He was a good kid. He trained every day. He won several national tournaments."
Medina said Caballero stopped coming by the gym in recent years, focusing on his new family.
"If he would have kept going, there’s no doubt he would have been a great professional boxer," Medina said.
Border Patrol has now confirmed none of the people in the car were wanted for any crimes. The freeway, along Interstate 5, is considered a major corridor for drug trafficking and human smuggling, federal officials said.
Two other people inside the car have been identified as Mexican nationals, Gloria Lopez, 15, and Raul Quiroz, 20.
Jorge said Israel was not involved in any drug trafficking, pointing out that his work at the landscaping company was his main focus.
"This is hard, difficult, long work in the hot sun. People who do this type of work are not typically smugglers on the side," he said.
Caballero was not driving the vehicle in the pursuit. The driver has not been identified and is recovering at Palomar hospital.
The driver of the SUV was speeding rapidly when they crashed through a guardrail and chainlink fence on the right shoulder of the freeway, plunging down a ravine.
The pursuit ended just south of West Bernardo Drive, about 10 minutes after Border Patrol agents ran the plate.
The full statement on the incident from Border Patrol can be read here:
"At approximately 1:06 pm on August 10, Border Patrol agents were conducting corridor operations on Interstate 15. During the course of their duties, Agents conducted vehicle checks on a Black GMC Envoy which indicated alerts associated with a possible armed and dangerous murder suspect and alien smuggling."
The statement further continued:
"Agents attempted to initiate a vehicle stop near Deer Springs Road on Interstate 15. The suspect vehicle failed to yield and crashed into a ravine near West Bernardo Drive in San Diego. As a result of the crash, two occupants of the GMC Envoy died on scene, one subject was pronounced dead at the hospital and the remaining subject was transported for further medical evaluation."