SUV Driver Intentionally Rammed Officer's Vehicle to Help Friend in Pursuit: Chief

The fatal hit-and-run crash occurred as the SUV driver attempted to help a friend involved in a pursuit, according to LA's police chief

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Allegations from the LAPD that Mynor Varela intentionally targeted fallen Officer Roberto Sanchez’s police cruiser last weekend added to the somber tone of the department’s annual commemoration of its fallen comrades. Conan Nolan reports from downtown Los Angeles for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 8, 2014. (Published Thursday, May 8, 2014)

    A man charged with murder in a hit-and-run crash that killed a Los Angeles Police Department officer intentionally rammed his sport utility vehicle into the officer's patrol car to help a friend who was driving a vehicle involved in a pursuit, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday.

    Mynor Varela pleaded not guilty Wednesday to several charges, including murder. The crash early Saturday killed 32-year-old Officer Roberto Sanchez, a six-year department veteran who was married three months ago. His partner, Officer Richard Medina, suffered a broken jaw and other injuries.

    SUV Driver Intentionally Rammed Officer's Patrol Car: Chief

    [LA] SUV Driver Intentionally Rammed Officer's Patrol Car: Chief
    A man charged with murder in a hit-and-run crash that killed a Los Angeles Police Department officer intentionally rammed his sport utility vehicle into the officer's patrol car to help a friend who was driving a vehicle involved in a pursuit, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said. Conan Nolan reports for NBC4 News at noon from downtown Los Angeles Thursday, May 8, 2014. (Published Thursday, May 8, 2014)

    The crash at Anaheim and Senator streets in the Harbor City area occurred as Sanchez and his partner were in pursuit of a Chevrolet Camaro driver because of a traffic violation, according to police. Both vehicles were eastbound on Anaheim Street when the drivers made U-turns and the patrol car was crashed into on its driver's side by an SUV that also was traveling east on Anaheim Street, police said.

    "He intentionally crashed his vehicle into the Los Angeles police car," Beck said. "He did this in order to aid a friend who was driving a Camaro that the police vehicle was following."

    The SUV driver and another occupant left the scene, prosecutors said.

    Varela, detained later that day, was arraigned Wednesday afternoon on one count each of murder, vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and leaving the scene of an  accident, along with two counts of assault on a peace office. The criminal complaint also included an allegation of second-degree  murder of a peace officer engaged in the performance of his duties, which can carry a sentence of life in prison without parole.

    Varela was ordered to return to the Long Beach courthouse on June 11 for the setting of a preliminary hearing  date. He remains in custody without bail, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office.

    His attorney said after Wednesday's court hearing that prosecutors were "throwing everything but the kitchen sink" at him. She declined to comment specifically on the charges, adding that the investigation is in its early stages.

    Video from nearby security cameras and a patrol car camera were used during the investigation, according to District Attorney Jackie Lacey. An on-board police car camera also helped authorities identify the suspect, according to the DA.

    "All of these things worked together very quickly to help us solve a  rather tragic case," Lacey said at a news conference Thursday morning.

    Varela's brother, a passenger in the SUV, is being detained "pending  further investigation of this case," Beck said.

    Sanchez's funeral is scheduled for May 14 at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.