Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck on Thursday said a 20-year-old man "intentionally committed homicide" when he rammed his SUV into a squad car, killing one officer and injuring another.
Appearing with Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey at a news conference, Beck said Mynor Varela exercised "willful and wanton disregard" when he crashed into the police cruiser Saturday in Harbor City in order to aid a friend in a separate car that was being pursued by
"He intentionally committed homicide and that is why these charges have been filed," Beck said.
Varela, of Harbor City, was charged Wednesday with murder, vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, assault on a peace officer and leaving the scene of the accident. He also faces a special circumstance of second-degree murder of a peace officer.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges, and is being held without bail pending a June 11 court hearing. If convicted, prosecutors said, he faces up to life without parole in state prison.
His brother, 19-year-old Bryan Varela, was a passenger in the Chevrolet Tahoe at the time of the crash, Beck said. Bryan Varela -- who had been incarcerated but was free at the time of the incident under the state's early release program -- was being held pending further investigation.
The collision occurred shortly before 4 a.m. Saturday as Sanchez, 32, and his partner were pursuing a Chevy Camaro on Anaheim Street in the city's Rolling Hills neighborhood near San Pedro, according to police accounts of the incident.
When the driver of the Camaro pulled a sudden U-turn, Sanchez tried to do the same and was hit by Mynor Varela, police allege.
Lacey said at the news conference that the case started out "virtually unsolved" until footage from surveillance cameras, and from the police cruiser's dash-cam, gave investigators what they needed.
Neither Lacey nor Beck took questions from reporters Thursday. Police have not addressed the whereabouts of the Camaro.