2 men killed when pickup crashed into Garden Grove pool during pursuit had lengthy criminal histories: Police

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Joseph Mendoza, left, and Sal Fernandez are seen in undated photos released March 16, 2021, by the Garden Grove Police Department.

Joseph Mendoza, left, and Sal Fernandez are seen in undated photos released March 16, 2021, by the Garden Grove Police Department.

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The two men who died when their pickup crashed into another vehicle while fleeing police last week, killing the other driver and launching their truck into a Garden Grove home’s swimming pool, were identified by authorities on Tuesday.

Joseph Mendoza, a 24-year-old Paramount man, and 34-year-old Sal Fernandez of Reseda had a handgun, catalytic converter and power saw in their Dodge Ram 1500 when it crash landed in the pool near the Euclid Street and Orangewood Avenue on Friday, Garden Grove police said in a news release.

Fernandez was on parole while Mendoza was under post-release supervision, and both had extensive criminal histories, officials said.

The California Highway Patrol, which is investigating the crash, has yet to determine which decedent was the driver and which was the passenger, according to Garden Grove police Lt. Carl Whitney.

The driver had been pulled dead from the truck immediately after the crash, but the passenger wasn’t found dead inside until the vehicle was removed from the pool about nine hours later.

Michael Clugston is seen in an undated photo provided by his family.
Michael Clugston is seen in an undated photo provided by his family.

Family previously identified the other driver killed in the crash as Michael Clugston, a 39-year-old Anaheim resident. His wife told KTLA he was on his way to work to pick up overtime hours because she recently lost her job.

Clugston died after being taken to a local hospital. Police have described him as an innocent bystander.

The fatal incident began around 2:15 a.m. Friday, when an officer spotted the Dodge speeding through a parking lot in the area of Chapman Avenue and Harbor Boulevard, at the border with Anaheim, officials said.

Police chased the truck, and after about 2 miles it struck Clugston’s car in an intersection. The force of the crash caused the pickup to propel through a block wall, into a home’s backyard and swimming pool.

Renee Robinson, who lives at the home, said it sounded like an explosion.

The intersection of Euclid and Orangewood was closed for several hours as authorities investigated, and Clugston’s wife and parents later showed up at the site to erect a memorial.

GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help raise funds for Clugston’s funeral.

A vehicle is seen in a pool following a fatal crash in Garden Grove on March 12, 2021. (OCFA)
A vehicle is seen in a pool following a fatal crash in Garden Grove on March 12, 2021, in an image released by the Orange County Fire Authority.

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