Man arrested in Santa Clara crash that killed rideshare passenger

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A San Jose man is accused of running a red light over the weekend and killing a young woman who was in the back of a Lyft car. 

Police say 32-year-old Claudio Perez is facing murder charges in the deadly crash. 

It started in neighboring Sunnyvale at the Fair Oaks Plaza parking lot around 11:45 p.m. Saturday night. 

Officers ran a license plate of a car that came back stolen, so they set up a spike strip and waited. 

"As soon as that suspect entered the vehicle, our officers approached him in their vehicles with their lights on," said Captain Craig Anderson of the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety. "The suspect immediately fled and at a high rate of speed, and really in a very reckless manner in that parking lot."

A nearby liquor store captured surveillance footage of the car speeding off followed by several police cars with lights on. 

Officers said the spike strip didn't work, allowing the suspect to drive off.

"The moment he leaves that parking area, he's already significantly further away from our officers that they couldn't catch up, so it was actually only a matter of seconds before our officers said over the radio, 'we are not going to initiate a pursuit,'" said Anderson. 

Investigators said five minutes later, about two miles away in Santa Clara, the suspect ran a red light at Lawrence Expressway and Cabrillo Avenue, slamming into a Lyft car. 

Richard McKeethen, who lives in the area, said he heard a big crash and ran outside to discover the rideshare vehicle with two people in the back along with the stolen car. 

Police said a Santa Clara woman who was in the back of the rideshare car, died later Sunday morning just a few days after she turned 28. The other passenger, a 26-year-old Sunnyvale man, is in critical condition. 

The Lyft driver is also being treated at a local hospital. 

Lyft issued a statement on Monday offering "thoughts and prayers"  for those affected by this tragic incident. They said they are cooperating with authorities on this investigation. 

Sunnyvale's police captain said he understands why people would want to criticize police actions, but said the blame lies on the drunk driver. 

"We never initiated a pursuit quite honestly," Anderson said. "It was probably more his impairment that caused him to run that red light."