A Los Angeles police officer was in custody Wednesday on suspicion of DUI for allegedly speeding on the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway in Santa Fe Springs and causing a fiery crash that killed three people.
Authorities said 26-year-old Edgar Verduzco of Santa Ana was speeding his 2016 Chevrolet Camaro in the freeway's carpool lane around 10:15 p.m. Tuesday just north of Washington Boulevard when he struck a 2014 Nissan and a 2010 Scion from behind.
The impact of the crash caused the Nissan to burst into flames, trapping the three occupants, who died at the scene. They were a mother, a father, and their teenage son, all from Riverside, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Their names were withheld, pending notification of their next of kin. The driver of the Scion, 31-year-old Berly Alvarado of Wilmington, was taken to a hospital after complaining of pain, the CHP said. Verduzco, who suffered "major" injuries was arrested and booked on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs causing bodily injury, the California Highway Patrol reported.
He was held on $100,000 bail, the sheriff's department reported. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said the department has begun an internal investigation and will cooperate with the CHP in its probe of the crash.
He said the LAPD "has no tolerance for driving under the influence and holds its officers to the highest standards of professionalism both on and off-duty." "It is particularly troubling when one of our own police officers violates drunk driving laws, which is why a drunk driving offense always results in a personnel complaint which can lead to dismissals," he said. "In instances where nobody has been injured, employees often receive suspension days and employees sign a contract in which an individual will submit to randomized testing, treatment programs and abstinence from alcohol as a condition of continued employment."
Beck said Verduzco has been with the department for just two years, but has a military background. The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing LAPD officers, issued a statement expressing "deep sorrow over this horrible tragedy."
"There's never an excuse for driving under the influence, and if Officer Verduzco is found guilty of what he is accused of, then he should suffer the consequences for his reckless actions," according to the union. While authorities were investigating the crash, a 29-year-old Huntington Beach man driving a Maserati drove past the barricades and was ultimately arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, according to the CHP.
The man's name was not immediately released. All southbound lanes were blocked for the investigation and reopened just before 4 a.m. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.