Yesterday, Pedro Pantoja Jr., 32, of Diamond Bar, who had a previous DUI conviction, was convicted of second-degree murder, DUI, evading the police, and multiple dangerous traffic violations.
On April 18, 2021, Pantoja, fled from the Tustin police in a stolen vehicle and he then caused a fatal collision on Jamboree near Warner.
The Irvine Police Department Major Accident Investigation Team (MAIT) spent hundreds of hours meticulously investigating the tragic collision.
According to the OCDA prosecutors, Tustin police officers responded at about 8:45 a.m. April 18, 2021, to the District at Tustin Legacy shopping center because a driver appeared to be passed out in an In-N-Out restaurant’s drive-thru.
Pantoja fled from the scene in what turned out to be a stolen car, from the Tustin police officers, at a high rate of speed through a Costco gas station while other drivers were pumping gas. He then ran a red light before he drove northbound in the southbound lanes of Jamboree Road.
Pantoja proceeded about 300 yards before he crashed head-on into a vehicle driven by David Kawashima, a 62-year-old resident of Orange at Jamboree near Warner Avenue, according to the Irvine Police Dept. Kawashima was pronounced dead at the scene.
Pantoja was hospitalized after the crash. There was also a woman in Pantoja’s car at the time of the crash. She was also hospitalized with injuries that were deemed to be not life-threatening.
Pantoja, Jr. was convicted of felony charges including second-degree murder, driving under the influence of a drug causing injury, unlawful taking of a vehicle and evading a peace officer-reckless driving, as well as misdemeanor counts of possession of drug paraphernalia and driving on a suspended or revoked driver’s license due to a previous DUI.
Pantoja, Jr. was previously convicted of driving under the influence in Riverside.
Kawashima was a long-time City of Irvine community photographer. Everyone at City Hall loved and respected him, according to the Irvine Police Dept.
Pantoja is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 20.