An annual motorcycle event “La Raza Run” turned into a collective prayer. Instead of celebrating, people remembered in prayers the victims of a horrible crash at Chicano Park on October 16.
An accident took place around 3:30. An out of control pickup truck hit the rail and plummeted off the San Diego-Bridge landing on a crowded motorcycle fiesta in a park below. CHP officers reported that four people died and nine were injured including the suspected driver. Two of the victims sustained major injures and the others suffered minor to moderate injuries.
The truck’s driver was arrested on a suspicion of DUI and DUI causing bodily injuries and death. A 25-year-old US Navy serviceman, Richard Anthony Sepolio caused the accident. He was driving alone when he drove his GNC pickup off the San Diego-Colorado Bridge, tumbled 60 feet down and rammed into the top of a vendor’s booth. There were more than 100 persons at the park when the accident occurred. They were celebrating a traditional annual festival of Mexican American community. The celebration included a car show, music, artworks and dance.
Sepolio sustained major injuries and was taken to UC San Diego Medical Center for treatment. Authorities identified the four perished as Cruz Elias and Annamarie Contreras from Chandler, Arizona; Andre Christopher Banks and Francine Denise Jimenez from Hacienda Heights, a Los Angeles suburb.
According to the records, the suspect was previously charged with one count of possession of drug paraphernalia in Tom Green County, Texas. Now Sepolio could face charges for four counts of DUI causing death.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs without aggravating factors is treated as a misdemeanor offense in California. In situations when DUI causes injury or death to another, more likely, it will be charged as a felony DUI offense. California prosecutors can charge Mr. Sepolio with one of the following serious charges: California Vehicle Code 23153 (DUI with injury); CVC 191.5(b) a DUI vehicular manslaughter or with “Watson Murder” (DUI second-degree murder under PC 187).
Which California felony DUI will be charged depends on the specific facts of the accused person’s case and on his/her criminal history. Upon conviction of a felony DUI with injury, the defendant can be sentenced to more than 1 year in the state prison. Defendant’s jail term depends on the severity of the injuries and the number of injured persons. Fines and penalties may range from $1,000 to $5,000. Often, defendant must attend and complete a DUI school program from 18 to 30 months. His driver license can be suspended or even revoked for a period of 4 to 10 years. Upon release from the state prison, a defendant can be placed on parole for up to 5 years.
Manslaughter DUI or a Watson Murder are very complicated and costly offenses. Defendant’s possible incarceration can result in a state prison sentence of 16 months, but it also can result in a life sentence. The severity of punishment depends upon the injuries and if any of the victims died or suffered great bodily injury. Clearly, a serious accident like the one that took place on October 16 will change the lives of all persons involved, including victims, their family and defendant and his family.