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Man previously convicted of DUI found guilty in deadly OC crash

A Diamond Bar man who was previously convicted of driving under the influence in Riverside was found guilty Wednesday in Santa Ana of triggering a fatal wrong-way crash on the border of Irvine and Tustin while eluding police.

Pedro Pantoja Jr., 31, was convicted of second-degree murder, driving under the influence of a drug causing injury, unlawful taking of a vehicle and evading a peace officer-reckless driving, all felonies, as well as misdemeanor counts of possession of drug paraphernalia and driving on a suspended or revoked driver’s license due to a previous DUI.

Jurors also found true a sentencing enhancement allegation of inflicting great bodily injury on a woman who was a passenger in his car.

He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 20.

Pantoja has a prior felony conviction for leading police on a chase in 2017, and a prior DUI out of Riverside in 2013, Deputy District Attorney Brian Orue said previously.

According to prosecutors, Tustin police were called about 8:45 a.m. April 18, 2021, to the District at Tustin Legacy shopping center because a driver appeared to be passed out in an In-N-Out drive-thru.

Prosecutors said Pantoja fled in a stolen car from Tustin police at a high rate of speed through a Costco gas station while other drivers were pumping gas. He also ran a red light before heading northbound in the southbound lanes of Jamboree Road.

Pantoja went about 300 yards before slamming head-on into a vehicle driven by 62-year-old David Kawashima of Orange at Jamboree near Warner Avenue, Irvine police reported. Kawashima was pronounced dead at the scene.

Pantoja was hospitalized after the crash. The woman in Pantoja’s car was also hospitalized with injuries that were not life-threatening.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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