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Girl,10, Killed by Hit-Run Driver : Crime: Suspect reportedly told witness, 'I don't care' before speeding away. He was caught after chase.

October 01, 1994|JAMES BENNING | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A driver who ran a red light and killed a 10-year-old Inglewood girl as she crossed the street in front of her home told a witness who chased him down that he knew he hit her. "I don't care," the driver allegedly said as he sped away again.

After a two-mile chase at speeds of up to 100 m.p.h., Inglewood police arrested Derrick G. Saunders, 25, of Hawthorne, who was driving a rented moving van, on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony hit and run, authorities said Friday.

Erica Jauraqui was in a crosswalk less than 50 yards from her front door on Arbor Vitae Street about 6 p.m. Thursday when she was struck, Inglewood Police Sgt. Hampton Cantrell said.

Her mother had asked her to buy a carton of milk at the market across the street for her 3-year-old brother, relatives said. The street is busy, but it has a traffic light, and Erica had crossed it safely many times before, they said.

Edwin Zelada, whose family witnessed the accident and chased the driver, confronted the man when he stopped at a red light a few blocks away. "I told him to get out . . . because he just hit a little girl," said Zelada, 18. "He said, 'I don't care' and hit the gas."

Another witness said the driver ran a red light at Arbor Vitae and Oak streets and then hit the girl. "I just saw this truck coming like 50 m.p.h.," said Maria Calix, 22, of Inglewood. "I honked my horn so (the girl) would see or he would stop, but nothing worked."

Calix followed the truck and waved down a police car as the driver headed for the San Diego Freeway, police said. An Inglewood officer pursued the vehicle, and Saunders was arrested several miles from the scene.

Eliodoro Duran, 44, a close friend of the family, was working in the front yard of the building where the young girl lived when she was hit. He said he turned away from Erica when she stepped off the curb, then glanced back at her a moment later and saw her unconscious by the side of the road. "I was so desperate, I couldn't believe it," Duran said.

Erica's family grieved Friday in the family's small stucco apartment that looks out onto the intersection where she was killed.

Her mother, Rosalina Jauraqui, was under medication to calm her nerves as she rested on a sofa in the family's living room.

"She's been sitting there all day," said Carmen Raya, 28, a friend of the family. "She doesn't want to eat or drink nothing. She hasn't eaten since yesterday."

The Police Department has established a trust fund to help the family pay for funeral expenses. Donations may be sent to the department's I-COPPS Division, 1 Manchester Blvd., P.O. Box 6500, Inglewood, Calif. 90301.

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