WHITTIER (CBSLA) — A police pursuit Monday ended with a deadly, fiery crash in Whittier and an innocent driver was killed.
Police say it all started with an apparent road rage incident.
The pursuit ended in a deadly wreck in front of St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Wardman Street and Pickering Avenue.
The suspect is being identified by Whittier Police as 34-year-old Kevin Vargas of Santa Fe Springs.
Officials said it started at 11 a.m. Officers witnessed Vargas engaged in road rage.
Police tried to stop him. He took off and within three to four minutes officers were in pursuit.
According to authorities, during that time Vargas attempted to ram police with his car more than once they say.
The man who was hit and killed, identified as Esias Cruz, was driving in a Ford on Wardman Street.
Vargas slammed into the driver’s door. Cruz was taken to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
“It’s hard to see someone that you really love to go away because someone was driving fast,” said the victim’s brother Zefereno Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said his brother was recently released from the hospital after a year there battling kidney disease. The father of four was living with his niece in Ontario, healing and happy to be with family.
Rodriguez said his brother was visiting a friend in uptown Whittier when police say Vargas slammed his Kia into Cruz’s Ford after a brief pursuit. He was driving so fast Cruz’s SUV flew through the air and the suspect’s Kia burst into flames.
Ruben Oceguera ran from his church building to help. But there was little he could do. He saw the suspect run from police.
“He ran out. Left the car. It was on flames. He was yelling, ‘I’m sorry I’m sorry,’ ” said Oceguera.
The suspect is looking at multiple felonies.
He had minor injuries in the wreck and has been taken to a hospital.