Investigation underway to determine cause of deadly crash in Richmond chase

RICHMOND, Calif. (KTVU) - A multi-agency investigation is underway to determine the cause of a fatal crash that began with a police pursuit in Richmond.

The crash happened at the intersection of 24th Street and Gaynor in Richmond around 9:30 Saturday night.

"For transparency purposes and the fact that our officer did initiate a pursuit, although he did stop it, we felt having some sense of transparency would be best," said Richmond Police Lt. Joey Schlemmer.

Schlemmer said so far, it appears that the officer who initiated the pursuit "followed [the department's] policy and guidelines".

The victim of the crash was identified as Anthony Nguyen, 24, San Pablo, who was a passenger in a Honda Civic that had been broadsided by a black corvette. Witnesses who saw the crash estimated the driver of the corvette had been going between 60 to 65 miles per hour in that residential neighborhood, when he blew through the stop sign and struck the civic.

The driver of the Civic was taken to the hospital. Police said he is expected to survive. A second passenger in the Civic was thrown from the car and remains in critical condition in the hospital.

Nguyen's family members said he and the other two friends in the car with him attended Barber school together in San Pablo.

"I was sitting in my sister in law's house and I heard the impact. It felt like a cannon," said Davone Sripukde, Nguyen's cousin.

She said she didn't realize her cousin had been involved in the crash until the next morning. She and Nguyen's older brother returned to the crash site Sunday afternoon. People who live in the area had already placed candles and flowers at the site in memoriam.

"I didn't know him," said neighbor Maria Ceja. "But I'm here in solidarity to the family. It is very sad what happened. May he rest in peace," she said as she lit a candle and said a prayer for Nguyen.

The driver of the corvette had been speeding away from police when the crash happened. Police had tried to pull the corvette over for driving recklessly and speeding in the area of Hellings and 15th street in Richmond.

"The corvette failed to yield to the officers' emergency lights, a pursuit was initiated," Schlemmer said.

The police chase stopped when the officer lost sight of the corvette on 23rd street. A short time later and just a couple blocks away on 24th is where the Corvette crashed into the Civic.

After the crash, witnesses saw the driver of the Corvette jump out of the car and run away. Police said a few hours after the crash, a man called them, claiming he had been car-jacked.

Police interviewed the driver, identified as Epigmenio Perez, 20, of San Pablo. Schlemmer said Perez "made certain admissions" during the interview and police determined that he was not a car-jacking victim and was instead behind the wheel of the Corvette at the time of the crash. "We pieced it together," Schlemmer said. "We're confident he's the driver."

Perez was arrested for vehicular manslaughter.

"I view this whole thing as tragic. The simplest thing for that gentleman to have done was to stop," Schlemmer said.

Sripukde questioned whether the police chase had ever really stopped in the first place. "I heard sirens. For them to say they stopped the chase two blocks away, that doesn't make sense."

She said Nguyen leaves behind a wife and 3-year-old daughter.

"It could have been prevented!" Sripudke said of the circumstances that led to his death. "When you think about it, put a lot of things together, the whole thing could have been prevented."