Deadly Hit-and-Run Suspect Cared More for Car Than Victim: Prosecutor

Police say road rage led to the crash that killed a woman cleaning graffiti from a wall

The DUI suspect accused of running down a community activist cleaning graffiti in Mission Beach cared more about the condition of his car than the condition of the victim, a prosecutor told NBC 7.

At his Thursday arraignment, Jonathan Domingo Garcia, 23, pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from an alleged road-rage fueled, hit-and-run crash that killed 69-year-old Maruta Gardner.

Deputy District Attorney Steven Schott said at about 3 p.m. Friday, Garcia and a friend were drinking 40-ounce cans of beer near 3100 Mission Boulevard. They were seen slashing tires on random vehicles and otherwise vandalizing the cars.

Less than three hours later, Garcia was behind the wheel of his own car, with alcohol, marijuana and another depressant drug in his system, Schott said.

As he drove through Mission Beach, he rear-ended a white Mustang and continued to drive off. When he returned to that same intersection, the white Mustang’s driver was in pursuit.

The Mustang got in front of Garcia, Schott said, so Garcia made an illegal maneuver and zoomed to the right of the Mustang, driving along the road’s shoulder and speeding up to nearly twice the posted speed limit.

According to the prosecutor, he was going that speed less than two seconds before he struck Gardner, who was cleaning graffiti on the curb of Jetty Road and Mission Boulevard.

Gardner, known for being a pillar of her community, suffered fatal head injuries and died at the hospital.

Garcia allegedly did not stop after the fatal blow.

"Actually took the time to get out of his vehicle down the road in a parking lot, where he took about five minutes to check out his car,” said Schott.

Garcia then got back into his car, drove back to the crime scene and again refused to stop as an officer tried to wave him down, according to the prosecutor. During his attempted getaway, he is accused of hitting another car.

Finally, a San Diego police officer was able to pull Garcia over and arrest him.

Schott described Garcia’s reaction when he was told Gardner was going to die.

"He showed absolutely no emotion when he's told that her death is imminent. He asks if there's damage to his car,” said Schott.

When told again that the victim is about to die, Garcia asked when he could get his car back, according to the prosecutor.

Three hours after the incident, investigators said Garcia’s blood alcohol content was still 0.06, and he had tested positive for marijuana and a depressant drug.

He now faces a charge of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with an allegation that he fled the scene. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 15 years in state prison.

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