FRESNO — A car trying to escape CHP officers on Sunday lost control and struck a panhandler who was standing on the corner of a freeway off-ramp.
The car then proceeded to crash into a pickup truck, ending the high-speed chase.
Four suspects in the vehicle were arrested after the crash. They were identified on Monday as Javier Jardon, 20, Ricardo Rodriguez, 21, Adan Valencia Wilson, 21, and a 17-year-old male whose name was not released because he is a minor. All of the suspects are from Fresno. Another passenger in the vehicle, 19-year-old Omar Perez, was not arrested.
Jardon was driving a black 2011 Dodge Charger around 3:30 p.m. Sunday when he reportedly ran a stop sign at Orchard and Tulare avenues. A nearby California Highway Patrol officer attempted to pull the Dodge over but it took off, driving onto southbound Highway 41.
The officer pursued the Charger in a high-speed chase off of Highway 41, onto southbound Highway 99. The chase lasted only a few minutes. As the suspect attempted to exit the highway onto Jensen Avenue, he lost control of his vehicle, according to the CHP.
“As they got down to the bottom of the off-ramp, there was a pedestrian on the corner,” said CHP representative Axel Reyes.
The suspect’s vehicle struck the pedestrian, a panhandler identified as Don Gardner.
After hitting Gardner, the vehicle continued to careen out of control, hitting a green Chevrolet pickup. The pickup driver was uninjured.
Gardner was taken to the hospital in critical condition, but died later that night.
“It’s not very safe to be standing at the edge of an off-ramp and we try to get that message out,” Reyes said.
He said that officers try to get panhandlers to move away from the corners of off-ramps for safety reasons.
One of the suspects in the Charger suffered minor injuries.
The suspected driver, Jardon, attempted to run away after the crash, but officers caught and arrested him. He will face charges that include gross vehicular manslaughter, hit and run, drunk driving, evading police, driving with a suspended license, and possession of drugs.
Rodriguez and Wilson were arrested on drug charges. The minor in the car was also arrested, but his charges were not released.