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Parents of victim in illegal street race that left two dead file suit

The parents of a man who was killed in an illegal street race are suing the owner of the car that hit him

The parents of a man killed during an illegal street race in Chatsworth two months ago have sued the owner of the car that hit him.

Eric Siguenza, 26, of Los Angeles was watching a nighttime speed contest near Canoga Avenue and Plummer Street on Feb. 26 when a souped-up Ford Mustang spun out of control and plowed into the crowd. Siguenza and another spectator, Wilson Thomas Wong, 50, of Torrance, were killed, and a third man was injured.

Siguenza's parents, Reynaldo Siguenza and Maria Perez-Siguenza, filed a civil lawsuit this week against Henry Michael Gevorgyan, the owner of the Mustang. Irael Valenzuela, 39, the driver of the other vehicle in the race, also was named in the suit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Police initially identified Gevorgyan, 22, as one of two drivers in the race and distributed his photo, which quickly rocketed across the Internet. Gevorgyan turned himself in to police days later, but video shot at the race showed he was not driving the car, his attorney, Kate Hardie, said. In the video, he appears to be flagging the drivers to start the race.

The Siguenzas' lawsuit also says that Gevorgyan was not driving and that the plaintiffs do not know the identity of the driver. The suit alleges that Valenzuela was driving a Nissan GTR and that the owner of that vehicle is also unknown.

The complaint alleges negligence, assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Eric Siguenza's parents seek unspecified damages. They say that they suffered grief and shock after their son's death and that they bore economic damages, including medical expenses and funeral costs.

Gevorgyan and Valenzuela fled the scene and did not try to help Siguenza after he was struck, the complaint says. Their failure to notify authorities so Siquenza could receive medical treatment was a substantial factor in his death, the lawsuit says.

"It's horrifically tragic," Christopher Aumais, an attorney for Siguenza's parents, said of the death.

Aumais said that there are probably others who helped organize the race, and that he would consider bringing lawsuits against them once they are identified.

"They know it's bad, they know people could get hurt," he said of illegal street racing. "It's just so irresponsible."

Officer Drake Madison, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman, said there is still an "active investigation" and that police continue to search for people involved in the race.

Gevorgyan and Valenzuela also face two criminal counts of murder and have been ordered to stand trial, said Ricardo Santiago, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. They are expected to be arraigned on the charges next week, Santiago said.

Prosecutors allege that the men helped promote and organize the deadly race. The district attorney's office does "not believe Gevorgyan was driving," Santiago said.

Hardie, Gevorgyan's attorney in the criminal case, said her client remains behind bars on the murder charges. Gevorgyan had never been arrested before, and he's "not doing well," Hardie said. His parents recently died, and he is facing up to life in prison, she said.

Hardie said that even though Gevorgyan was not driving the Mustang, he surrendered because he wanted "to do the right thing." His bail is set at $1 million, according to the district attorney's office.

Valenzuela, who has appeared on the Discovery Channel's street racing show "Street Outlaws," was released from jail on more than $2-million bail last month.

His attorney, Jay Jaffe, said Tuesday that he had not yet seen the suit. Jaffe acknowledged that his client was driving the other car involved in the race but said it was a stretch for prosecutors to charge Valenzuela with murder. Prosecutors, he said, typically file manslaughter charges in such cases.

The racers, Jaffe said, did not have "have the mental state required of somebody who wants to kill somebody."

Valenzuela knew the two men who were killed, Jaffe said.

"He's devastated by the charges but more so by the results," Jaffe said. "He knew these people They were friends. The last thing in the world he wanted to see happen was something like this."

hailey.branson@latimes.com

Twitter: @haileybranson

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