A man was charged with second-degree murder Tuesday after three people were killed and more injured in a pursuit with U.S. Border Patrol agents that ended in a crash last month.
Luis Alberto Virgen, 21, is accused of driving a truck carrying nearly a dozen people when it crashed near Crestwood Road in Boulevard. Federal officials say the truck was involved in a human smuggling attempt at the time of the crash.
Virgen was also charged with three counts of implied malice, gross vehicular manslaughter, and several counts of reckless driving, according to authorities.
He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Tuesday in El Cajon.
If convicted, Virgen could face 45 years to life in prison.
Virgen is a U.S. citizen who has been living in Mexico, according to the California Highway Patrol.
U.S. Border Patrol agents spotted a truck in the East County with damage that matched debris and tire tracks found along a portion of the border, prosecutors said.
When agents attempted to pull the truck over, the driver refused to stop and continued eastbound on Interstate 8, before turning around in the opposite direction, according to authorities.
At times, the truck reached speeds above 100 miles per hour, on the highway in rainy and foggy conditions, officials said.
When agents deployed a spike strip, the truck's driver lost control and the vehicle rolled up an embankment, officials said. Multiple passengers were ejected. Three people died.
Of those who survived the crash, three suffered major injuries and five had minor injuries, including Virgen, according to CHP.
Officers said Virgen was the only one of the 10 people in the truck who was wearing a seatbelt.
Virgen was arrested and booked into the San Diego Central Jail on Nov. 30.
His bail was set at $3 million. He also requested a member of the public defenders' office to serve as his attorney.
Virgen's next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 2.