Suspected drunk driver ordered to stand trial for fatal crash

Friends testify about how drunk they were
Posted at 7:18 PM, Jan 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-18 22:18:49-05

A man accused of driving drunk and causing a collision in Mira Mesa that killed a 19-year-old motorist must stand trial on charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Christian Evangelista, 22, faces more than 15 years in prison if convicted, according to prosecutors.

Witnesses testified during a day-long preliminary hearing that Evangelista spent the night of Aug. 20 at his residence drinking with two friends, and when they ran out of alcohol, the group decided to go to a 7-Eleven store to buy more.

One of those friends, Henry Kim, said he asked Evangelista if he was OK to drive, and the defendant said yes.

On the way back from the store, Evangelista, driving eastbound on Zapata Avenue, allegedly ran a stop sign at Camino Ruiz and crashed broadside into a car driven by Tutam Le just before 1 a.m.

She died on the way to the hospital. Evangelista and his two friends were injured.

Attorneys for Evangelista argued that their client was the one driving northbound on Camino Ruiz and that Le pulled out in front of the defendant.

But Superior Court Judge Melinda Lasater said evidence extracted from a data recorder on Evangelista's car showed that he was driving as fast as 64 mph in a 25-mph zone on Zapata just before the fatal collision.

San Diego police Officer James Zirpolo testified that Evangelista's blood-alcohol content was measured at .14 percent about two hours after the collision, meaning it would have been more than .15 percent at the time of the crash -- nearly twice the legal limit.

One of the others drinking that night was asked how drunk he was.

Anthony Colling telling the court, "On a scale of 1 to 10, I guess 7.5. Ten being black-out gone." He said he didn’t know how much alcohol Evangelista had consumed.

Zirpolo testified that Evangelista told him that he was confused about which direction he was going after he left 7-Eleven.

Evangelista was arrested and booked on a misdemeanor DUI charge, bailed out of custody, and was re-arrested a few days later on the more serious charges.

The defendant will be back in court Feb. 1 for arraignment.