A 26-year-old man was booked on suspicion of murder Thursday after Westminster police said he led officers on a brief pursuit and broadsided a minivan, killing a girl inside and injuring her mother and sister.
The pursuit began about 6:15 p.m., police said, when officers tried to pull over Aleksander Apostoloic on drug trafficking and weapons charges.
Instead of stopping, Apostoloic rammed the patrol car with his vehicle then sped off northbound on Olive Street, a narrow residential road, police said.
About two minutes later, authorities said, he tried to turn left onto Trask Avenue and broadsided the minivan carrying the mother and her two daughters.
Video of the aftermath showed there was nothing left of the rear passenger side of the van but crumpled metal and shattered windows. Debris was scattered across the road.
The woman and girls were rushed to local hospitals. One of the girls, who police said was 12 years old, was pronounced dead. Her identity has not yet been released by the Orange County coroner.
[Updated 11:32 a.m. PDT April 4: The coroner on Friday identified the dead girl as 12-year-old Vivian Nguyen.]
Apostoloic’s SUV, meanwhile, flipped over after hitting a second car in the intersection, according to police.
That’s when resident Robert Ramirez saw the suspect flee.
“As soon as the truck flipped over, he climbed out right away and jumped over the wall,” Ramirez told told KTLA.
Westminster police said they scoured the area for two hours with a helicopter, dogs and officers from neighboring police departments, but didn't find Apostoloic.
Then about 11:55 p.m., they said, a woman who lived in the area called 911 and reported a man inside her home.
It turned out to be Apostoloic, who ran out of the back of the house and was found hiding behind some bushes in a backyard, police said.
Apostoloic was booked on suspicion of murder, evading arrest and assault with a deadly weapon -- the latter charge filed in connection with the ramming of the police car -- as well as the previous drug trafficking and weapons violations, authorities said.
“The suspect set a series of events in motion that ended tragically," Westminster Police Sgt. Cameron Knauerhaze said in a statement.