LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Los Angeles Police Department officer pleaded not guilty today to murder and other charges stemming from a suspected DUI crash last September, that killed three people on the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway in Santa Fe Springs last September.
Edgar Verduzco, 27, was charged April 18 with three counts each of murder and vehicular manslaughter, as well as one count each of driving under the influence and driving with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content causing injury in connection with the Sept. 26, 2017, crash that killed Mario Davila, 60, Maribel Davila, 52, and their 19-year-old son, Oscar Davila.
Verduzco was allegedly off duty and speeding in his 2016 Chevrolet Camaro in a carpool lane on the freeway when he struck a 2014 Nissan containing the Davilas and a 2010 Scion from behind, authorities said shortly after the crash.
The vehicle containing the Davila family struck a center divider and burst into flames, while the people in the other vehicle suffered minor injuries, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
Superior Court Judge Deborah S. Brazil ordered Verduzco -- who has been behind bars since his April 20 arrest -- to remain jailed in lieu of $6.1 million bail. He is due back at a downtown Los Angeles courthouse Aug. 15, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial.
According to a GoFundMe page created on the family's behalf, the Davilas were ``members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine Church, volunteers of the Riverside community, supporters of the arts, and all three of them had positive influences on those around them.”
Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said shortly after the crash that the department had launched an internal investigation and that it would cooperate with the California Highway Patrol in its probe of the crash.
The police chief said the LAPD ``has no tolerance for driving under the influence and holds its officers to the highest standards of professionalism both on and off-duty.”
Verduzco had been with the department for two years, and had a military background, Beck said last year.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers, also issued a statement shortly after the crash that expressed ``deep sorrow over this horrible tragedy.”
``There's never an excuse for driving under the influence, and if Officer Verduzco is found guilty of whatever he is accused of, then he should suffer the consequences for his reckless actions,” the union's statement said.
The crash and the ensuing investigation resulted in the closure of the southbound 605 Freeway for nearly six hours.
Verduzco was initially arrested by the California Highway Patrol shortly after the crash and then released two days later while CHP officials awaited the results of lab tests, authorities said. He was arrested again by the CHP on April 20 in Long Beach, authorities said.
If convicted as charged, he could face a possible maximum sentence of life in prison, according to the District Attorney's Office.
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