A suspected drug dealer, speeding from state narcotics agents who had just arrested his alleged partner, lost control of his sports car on a freeway off-ramp in Anaheim Thursday night and slammed into a stopped car, killing the driver, authorities said Friday.
David Jon Vaca, 23, of Anaheim was pronounced dead at the scene after the suspect, traveling an estimated 80 m.p.h. on the off-ramp, struck his car broadside, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol said.
Vaca, a recent college graduate who had just been hired by an insurance company, and his girlfriend, who asked that her name not be used, were on their way to dinner when the accident occurred, said Vaca's brother, Chris. The girlfriend, who had followed in a separate car and was just a few feet from the crash, tried to pull Vaca out of the wreckage but the damage was too great, Chris Vaca said.
A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office said that the suspected drug dealer, Luis Carlos Escobar, 25, of Costa Mesa, was initially arrested on a charge of vehicular manslaughter. But the charge may be changed to murder, she said. Several drug charges and a charge of possession of a loaded weapon by an ex-felon also are expected to be filed against Escobar, said Kati Corsaut, public information officer for the attorney general's division of law enforcement.
Fleeing the scene of his alleged partner's arrest, Escobar was speeding in excess of 100 m.p.h. northbound on the Santa Ana Freeway, Corsaut said. He exited at Lincoln Avenue, slowing to about 80 m.p.h., and lost control, hitting Vaca's car at 9:10 p.m., the CHP said.
Escobar was found in possession of a .45-caliber semiautomatic weapon and had $34,840 in cash in the car, Corsaut said. Agents then secured a search warrant for Escobar's home, where they seized eight ounces of cocaine, she said.
The incident began minutes earlier about five miles away at the Casa Maria restaurant at 1801 E. Katella Ave. in Anaheim, Corsaut said.
State narcotics agents had arrested David Gerome Gutierrez, 25, of Orange after he had sold one kilogram of high-grade cocaine to a state undercover agent for $40,000, Corsaut said. As Gutierrez was being arrested, Escobar was seen leaving the area, she said.
Ed Synicky, special agent supervisor in the state Department of Justice's bureau of narcotics enforcement, said authorities believe that Escobar was Gutierrez's supplier. Agents had planned to also arrest Escobar, he said.
Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Carl Armbrust said Escobar had met with Gutierrez just before the transaction to assist him. Agents had arranged to buy two kilograms of cocaine--after Gutierrez had sold one kilo, he told agents that he would get the second one from his partner, Armbrust said.
Lost Sight of Car
When Escobar fled, an agent attempted pursuit but was driving a six-cylinder Chevrolet Citation and lost sight of the high-powered sports car within 20 seconds, Synicky said.
Escobar entered the Santa Ana Freeway near the restaurant and when he exited he hit the curb of the Lincoln off-ramp and crashed into Vaca's 1967 Volkswagen, authorities said.
Vaca's car, eastbound on Lincoln, was pushed into an adjacent car driven by Bernard Mahoney, 60, address unknown, the CHP said. Mahoney sustained minor injuries and was taken to Anaheim Memorial Hospital, where he was treated and released, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Escobar, who was not injured, fled but was found nearby hiding in bushes. He was detained by Anaheim police until state authorities arrived.
Bail Raised to $250,000
Escobar and Gutierrez were booked into Orange County Jail. Bail for Escobar was initially set at $25,000 and later increased to $250,000.
Armbrust said charges will be filed Monday against Escobar and Gutierrez. He did not know the details of Escobar's record but said he was on parole from a state prison.
Chris Vaca, 22, said his brother was out on a date with his girlfriend, who was following in her car because David had been having car troubles.
The Vacas grew up in La Puente, and David went on to earn a bachelor's degree in American studies last June from Cal State Fullerton, his brother said. David had recently won a writing award and was looking forward to a trip to Georgia to read his piece, said Chris Vaca, who knew no further details of the competition.
Doing Graduate Work
"He was a great guy" who was an accomplished guitar and keyboard player, Chris Vaca said.
David had recently been hired by an insurance company as an underwriter while continuing at Cal State Fullerton in graduate studies, his brother said. "He was just out of school, just beginning to make some money," Chris Vaca said. His workplace was in Hollywood, and David planned to move there in a few months, Chris said.
"I guess he didn't move quick enough," his brother said.