Police sought the public's help on Thursday to find a 21-year-old man suspected of being the driver of a Ford Mustang that veered out of control during a street race and smashed through a group of spectators on the sidewalk, killing two and critically injuring another man.
The driver jumped out of his car and fled the scene, police said.
The incident happened Thursday shortly after 2 a.m. in Chatsworth on a stretch of Plummer Street that goes through a light industrial neighborhood and is popular with street racers during overnight hours when it is otherwise largely vacant.
At a late-afternoon briefing at LAPD's Valley Traffic Headquarters, police named Henry Michael Gevorgyan (pictured), a San Fernando Valley resident, as the driver of the Mustang, which had been equipped with racing slick tires and other speed modifications.
Gevorgyan could face charges of hit and run, vehicular manslaughter, and possibly murder, said Capt. John McMahon, commanding officer of the LAPD Valley Traffic Division. The driver of the second vehicle involved in the race, who has yet to be identified, could also be charged.
It is apparent from the rubber burnout marks on the roadway that the Mustang began going out of control shortly after it started accelerating, then veered toward the curb, jumping it and striking several young men on the sidewalk. The tire marks on the roadway were from acceleration, not braking, said LAPD Detective Bill Bustos.
"When the Mustang was hitting the power, he lost control, and that's why the car went (into) the sidewalk," said a man who identified himself as Marcos.
He described watching from up the street. He said the driver of the other car in the race, yet to be identified by police, stopped briefly, then drove off.
Emergency responders found Eric Siguenza, 26, dead at the scene. Two others were taken hospitals.
"One was screaming 'My leg, my back's hurt,'" Marcos said.
That man remained hospitalized Thursday evening. The other man who was taken to the hospital could not be revived. Authorities held off releasing his identification until both parents could be notified.
A Facebook page associated with the underground street racing culture in the San Fernando Valley posted photos of the two men who died under the phrase, "Race in Paradise."
Heavy tire marks on the Plummer roadway evidenced a history of street racing, some recorded on video and posted on YouTube.
"It's been the preferred spot for years," according to one man who said he had attended races in the past, but was not present Thursday morning.
Notification of planned races is spread "by word of mouth, cellphone, and social media," he said.
Generally there is wagering on the outcome of street races.
Investigators at the Plummer scene Thursday morning could be seen counting cash that had been seized as evidence.
"It's incredibly frustrating," said Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander, who represents the Chatsworth neighborhood and who, as an LAPD reservist, has served on teams assigned to interdict street racing. Englander said underground race organizers routinely set up lookouts to watch for police, and signal participants to disperse if officers approach.
Englander said he intends to introduce at the City Council on Friday a motion for a city ordinance that would mandate seizure and destruction of a vehicle if its driver is convicted in connection with a street racing crash that results in a fatality.