What to Know
- One person was killed in the crash.
- The suspect pleaded not guilty to the charges.
- If convicted as charged, he could face up to 27 years to life in state prison.
A Santa Fe Springs man who allegedly led police on a pursuit that ended with a fiery crash in Whittier that killed a man was charged Thursday with murder and other counts.
Kevin Vargas, 24, pleaded not guilty in connection with the crash Monday that killed Isaias Rodrigues Cruz, 61.
Vargas is charged with one count each of murder, fleeing a pursuing peace officer's motor vehicle causing death and hit-and-run driving resulting in death, along with four counts of assault upon a peace officer.
The charges include an allegation that he was free on his own recognizance in a pending case in which he is charged with one felony count of fleeing a pursuing peace officer's vehicle while driving recklessly and two misdemeanor DUI counts.
He had been released from jail in that case over the prosecution's objection, according to Ricardo Santiago of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
On Monday morning, Vargas allegedly fled from an officer who tried to stop him for a traffic violation, according to prosecutors. A brief pursuit ensued in which Vargas allegedly drove onto a dead-end street, made a U-turn and drove toward police vehicles pursuing him, according to prosecutors.
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Vargas then allegedly collided with the victim's SUV near the corner of Wardman Street and Pickering Avenue, according to prosecutors. He was arrested after escaping from his car -- which burst into flames -- and fleeing from the scene of the crash, authorities said.
Vargas remains jailed in lieu of $2.475 million bail while awaiting his next court appearance March 7, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to allow the case against him to proceed to trial.
If convicted as charged, he could face up to 27 years to life in state prison, according to the District Attorney's Office.