Los Angeles police have arrested the alleged second driver in a deadly street race that left two dead in Chatsworth in February.
Karen Balyan, 44, surrendered in a San Fernando Valley courtroom at 10 a.m. Tuesday with his lawyer and was jailed on two counts of murder, said LAPD Det. Bill Bustos.
Balyan is now the third man charged in connection with the Feb. 26 crash on Plummer Street that killed spectators Eric Siguenza, 26, and Wilson Thomas Wong, 50. The men were killed when a souped-up Ford Mustang lost control just after the start of a race and barrelled into the crowd and onto the sidewalk.
The owner of the Mustang, Henry Michael Gevorgyan, 21, surrendered after the incident and is also being held on a murder charge. Video of the race shows Gevorgyan wasn’t driving his car in the race, his attorney said.
The third defendant is Irael Valenzuela, 38, of Los Angeles. All three were among those who allegedly fled the scene after the crash.
Though police won’t specify the three men’s alleged roles in the deadly race, a civil suit filed by Siguenza’s parents put Valenzuela behind the wheel of the Nissan GTR that raced the Mustang. With Balyan’s arrest Tuesday, police said both drivers have been taken into custody.
Though the illegal street racing community traditionally protects its own and doesn't cooperate with police, the men’s deaths and subsequent media coverage churned up leads in and outside the racing scene, Bustos said.
“Obviously this loss of life…it shows there are serious consequences,” Bustos said. “Illegal street racing puts everyone in danger and they’ve spoken loud and clearly that they will not tolerate this type of activity.”
For more than six months, the LAPD’s Valley officers have been ramping up enforcement against street races.
In November, the LAPD's Valley Traffic Division formed the seven-officer Aggressive Driving Detail, the department's only unit dedicated to street racing.
The unit has made more than 70 arrests for reckless driving and street racing and handed out more than 900 citations for illegally modified vehicles, said Sgt. Greg Fuqua, who leads the unit.
"They know we're out here," Fuqua said. "We tell them, 'Let us inspect your car or you'll go to jail and we'll still inspect your car.'" Fuqua said that sometimes drivers will beg for speeding tickets, trying to avoid vehicle inspections out of fear that they'll lose their cars.
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