ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) — Weeks after a 13-year-old was suspected of taking her mom's vehicle for a joyride that ended in a fatal crash, Escondido Police say they have arrested the teenager.
Police said the teenager was served an arrest warrant on Thursday and later booked into Juvenile Hall on two counts of vehicular manslaughter, and one count each of evading police causing injury or death, felony hit and run, and hit and run causing death or series injury.
The teen's name is not being released due to her age, police said.
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On Feb. 12, police say the 13-year-old was with another juvenile when she allegedly took her mom's Ford Explorer for a joyride. Police tried to pull the vehicle over, but the teen fled, according to police. She lost control of the vehicle while turning from Mission Avenue to Ash Street, and the vehicle slide into nearby bushes where two homeless men were sleeping, police said.
Police said the teen was quickly detained after fleeing the scene before her passenger was located. The two were released to their parents following the crash.
The crash killed 33-year-old Mateo Salvador and 51-year-old Sofio Sotelo Torres.
Friends told ABC 10News that Torres was a beloved uncle. Relatives offered him a place to stay, but he chose to live on the street.
"He had such a big heart and was so kind to everyone. He was the type of man that even though he didn't have much he would give his last dollar or piece of food to you so you could be okay," said Ayari Lopez Bazan, adding that Torres loved to dance and play cards in nearby Washington Park. "He will be missed dearly and I hope justice will be served because even though he was homeless he had family here and in Mexico that loved him so much."
ABC 10News spoke to attorney James Frantz of the Frantz Law Group, who said her reckless act is inexcusable. But because of her age, in California, she will not be tried as an adult. In February of this year, the State Supreme Court upheld a 2019 state law that does not allow prosecutors to charge minors under 16 as adults.
"Keeping her in the juvenile justice system is the appropriate thing to do," Frantz said.
As long as she is rehabilitated, the longest the teen will serve behind bars will be until her 25th birthday.
"I think that she should be given a chance to rehabilitate, to reflect on what she did, so she will avoid ever making a mistake like that again," Frantz said.
Police are still investigating the crash. Anyone with information is asked to call EPD at 760-839-4465 or 760-743-8477.