Man Arrested After Pursuit Ends in Fatal Whittier Crash Is Charged With Murder

A police pursuit ended with a fiery crash in Whittier on Feb. 18, 2019, sending both a suspect and an uninvolved motorist to the hospital, officials said. (Credit: KTLA)

A police pursuit ended with a fiery crash in Whittier on Feb. 18, 2019, sending both a suspect and an uninvolved motorist to the hospital, officials said. (Credit: KTLA)

A man who was arrested after a pursuit ended in a fatal crash in Whittier earlier this week has been charged with murder, officials announced.

Kevin Vargas, 24, was also charged with fleeing a police vehicle causing a death, hit-and-run resulting in a death and four counts of assault on a police officer, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Vargas remains on probation for a December 2017 incident where he fled a police officer’s vehicle, court records show.

Prosecutors also said he previously faced two misdemeanor counts of DUI.

On Monday, Vargas allegedly led authorities on a pursuit after being spotted in an alleged road rage incident in Whittier. He then drove into a dead-end street, but made a U-turn toward officers who were pursuing him, officials said. Whittier police alleged that Vargas tried to ram at least three responding patrol cars.

The pursuit ended when Vargas crashed into an SUV driven by Isaias Rodrigues Cruz near the intersection of Wardman Street and Pickering Avenue. Witness video shows the Vargas’ vehicle was engulfed in flames. Cruz later died from his injuries.

Vargas tried to get away from police, but he was eventually arrested.

He pleaded not guilty during an arraignment Thursday and is due back in court on March 7, DA officials said.  His bail was set at $2.4 million.

Vargas faces a maximum sentence of 27 years to life in prison if convicted as charged.

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