Street Racing Probed in Fatal Hit-and-Run Crash in Commerce

The crash happened at 11 p.m. Thursday at Randolph Street and Eastern Avenue, an area police say is known for street racing

By Jason Kandel and Toni Guinyard
|  Friday, Jul 27, 2012  |  Updated 3:27 PM PDT
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A 19-year-old man was killed on a street in Commerce while a street race was underway. Toni Guinyard reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Friday, July 27, 2012.

A 19-year-old man was killed on a street in Commerce while a street race was underway. Toni Guinyard reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Friday, July 27, 2012.

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Officials on Friday identified the man killed in a crash that could be connected to street racing as Jose Mendoza, 19, of Bell Gardens.

Authorities said Friday they were trying to determine if street racing caused the crash that left Mendoza dead in Commerce. The crash happened during a street race, police said.

Deputies were looking for a motorist who is believed responsible for the hit-and-run crash that happened at 11 p.m. Thursday at Randolph Street and Eastern Avenue, an area known as a street racing site.

Witnesses told authorities that street racing was taking place, but deputies have not confirmed whether the vehicle involved had anything to do with the gathering on the street.

"One thing we do know is that street racing is illegal and spectators are considered participants," said Lt. Sam Arellano, with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "We're not certain as to why the young man was there or if her was even a participant, but it's unfortunate as a result of this that a young 19-year-old man is dead."

Authorities were looking for a dark-colored pickup or sport utility vehicle, possibly a Toyota Tacoma.

Mendoza's friends lighted votive candles and laid flowers on the sidewalk.

Mendoza, they said, was "a car guy."

“He’s just a good friend,” said Nemo Tapia. “… just a cool guy, a fun person.”

Neighbors, meanwhile, were not surprised that a race was going on.

"We heard the typical gathering of crowds and the roaring of the engine," said Gabriella Escobar, a resident of Bell Gardens who lives near the street. "My kids were like, 'Oh, they're at it again.'"

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