Motorist with DUI History Convicted for Second-Degree Murder in Fatal Tustin Crash

According to a report on the Daily Bulletin website, a Diamond Bar man was convicted of second-degree murder for his role in a fatal crash in Tustin during a high-speed police pursuit. 

Court documents indicate that the defendant, 32-year-old Pedro Pantoja Jr. was high on methamphetamine while driving a stolen vehicle on April 18, 2021, when the car he was driving collided with a Honda Accord being driven by a 62-year-old man. 

At approximately 8:45 a.m., the employees of an In-and-Out Burger located in the 2800 block of Park Avenue witnessed a Toyota Rav4 being driven by Pantoja, who appeared to be asleep at the wheel while in the restaurant’s drive-through lane. Police responding to the call from the restaurant approached the SUV and knocked on the window. Pantoja responded by speeding off.

The officer pursued the stolen car, noting that the defendant reached speeds of 50 to 60 miles per hour through business parking lots and then went the wrong way through a Costco gas station. The chase continued on surface streets until Pantoja blew through a stop sign and into the opposing lanes of Jamboree Road. The chase ended when the Toyota collided with the Honda. The driver of the Honda was pronounced dead at the scene.

During a search of the stolen vehicle, police found drug paraphernalia. Pantoja later admitted that he had smoked methamphetamine prior to the fatal crash.

Also in the stolen vehicle was a female passenger who told paramedics she was pregnant. She was taken to an area hospital but was not charged in the incident.

Prosecutors say that Pantoja had a previous DUI conviction in which he had been warned that according to a Watson Advisement, any future DUIs resulting in death would result in a murder charge.

This week, an Orange County jury convicted Pantoja of second-degree murder, car theft, and drug paraphernalia.  

Pantoja’s sentencing is scheduled for October 20.

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