San Diego police say a driver endangered his two children by putting them at the center of a so-called street takeover, where cars perform unofficial and dangerous burnouts and other stunts inches from crowds of spectators.
The two young children of Jonathan Mendoza, 31, were in the backseat, of his vehicle as he performed spinouts amid a crowd at the College Grove Shopping Center on Tuesday night, according to San Diego police.
SDPD St. Gregory Minter said police arrived to find Mendoza's vehicle performing stunts and witnessed his car strike a planter box and come dangerously close to hitting spectators at about 9:30 p.m. When officers stopped the car, they noticed two children -- five and six years old -- in the backseat. The children didn't have booster seats, Minter added, which is required of children up to 8 years old in California.
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Mendoza was arrested on child endangerment charges. He also faces charges of reckless driving and DUI. Mendoza is being held at San Diego Central Jail on $100,000 bail pending his arraignment on Friday.
Police said dozens of vehicles participated in Tuesday's takeover but did not disclose if any other arrests were made.
Street takeovers, also known as sideshows, have become more common in San Diego. Dozens, sometimes hundreds, of people shut down an intersection or a freeway and make space for cars to perform stunts.
The events are often caught on video, including a large gathering in Mission Valley that involved at least 50 cars had hundreds of people blocking a busy intersection and the Interstate 8 freeway. One spectator was struck during the ordeal, police said.
In another, tires screeched for about 20 minutes as cars spun circles outside high-rise buildings in downtown San Diego. Bianka Fimbres, who shot video of the takeover from her building, said she saw at least three cars nearly miss the pedestrians that circled around.
One in North Park ended in tragedy when a dog in a residence near the takeover at Madison Avenue and 30th Street became so scared by the loud engine revvings and tire burnings, the dog jumped out a window, ran onto Interstate 805 and was struck and killed by a vehicle.
The street takeovers are often publicized in advance on social media, resulting in throngs of people standing around watching, with some having to dodge cars doing donuts at the last minute.
But San Diego police have begun to crack down on the sideshows by seizing the cars of drivers who participate. From January to June, at least 34 cars had been seized and several more were pending affidavit approval.
Criminal charges are possible for drivers who get caught. And, being a spectator doesn't come without repercussions either. SDPD Lt. Adam Sharki said anyone found at a takeover could get a misdemeanor, which comes with a fine up to $1,000 and/or six months in jail.
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