An off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy has been charged with murder in connection with a solo-vehicle crash in Torrance that killed his 23-year-old passenger and left two other people seriously injured, officials announced Wednesday.
Daniel Manuel Auner, 23, faces one count each of murder and reckless driving on a highway causing injury, as well as an allegation of causing great bodily injury, according to the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office.
Victim Ashley Wells’ family previously told KTLA that they believe Auner was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash, but he has not been charged with a DUI offense.
The crash occurred just after midnight July 8. Witnesses said Auner was speeding when his Dodge Charger went over a median, crossed two lanes of traffic and struck a light pole at the corner of Crenshaw Boulevard and 190th Street, according to attorneys for Wells’ family.
Wells died instantly, and two other passengers — who were Wells’ friends — were seriously injured.
Wells’ family told KTLA that their daughter met Auner for the first time earlier that day, and she and two friends left Hennessey’s Tavern in Redondo Beach with him. They said there was no doubt in their minds that Auner was under the influence after seeing video their daughter took showing the deputy drinking shots with Wells and her friends.
“You’re drinking, you’re driving, you’re racing another car,” the victim’s mother, Lanora Wells told KTLA. “And we were told that the only reason why he was not arrested was because they were not aware of his drinking until after two hours after the investigation.”
According to Torrance police, the off-duty deputy was not given a field sobriety test because he was also injured and rushed to an area hospital.
Four months after the deadly crash, a Torrance police spokesperson told KTLA that the case had been delayed because officials were waiting for information to be filed before the case was presented to the district attorney’s office.
“Reckless driving can be deadly and no one knows that more than law enforcement officers,” L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement after the charges were filed.
Auner had previously been placed on paid administrative leave, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
The crash remains under investigation by the Torrance Police Department.