A Los Angeles police officer was arrested Friday and charged with three counts of murder in connection with a suspected DUI crash on the 605 Freeway in Whittier last fall, authorities said.
Edgar Verduzco, 27, was taken into custody at a friend’s home in Long Beach and booked on suspicion of three counts of murder, three counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and drunk driving causing injury, according to the California Highway Patrol. He has been relieved of duty, according to the LAPD.
Verduzco made his initial court appearance Friday morning, waiving his arraignment until May 16. He was wearing the blue “Dodgers Baseball” T-shirt and shorts he had on when he was arrested hours earlier.
When asked by L.A. County Superior Court Judge Deborah S. Brazil if he understood the charges against him, Verduzco answered softly, “Yes, your honor.”
His bail was set at $6.1 million. He faces life in prison if convicted on all charges.
On Sept. 26, authorities said, Verduzco was driving drunk south on the 605 in Whittier when he sped his Chevy Camaro into the rear of a Nissan.
The Nissan burst into flames and Verduzco’s vehicle continued on and hit a second car, injuring the driver.
The three occupants of the Nissan — Mario Davila, 60, his wife Maribel Davila, 52, and their son Oscar Davila, 19 — died in their vehicle.
“They were members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine Church, volunteers of the Riverside community, supporters of the arts, and all three of them had positive influences on those around them,” a friend wrote on a GoFundMe page set up for the family.
Verduzco was speeding in the carpool lane when he rear-ended the Davilas’ Nissan in the next lane over and then struck the second vehicle, according to the CHP.
Just hours before the crash, Verduzco had posted a video on social media from a bar and included the hashtag #Dontdrinkanddrive, KTLA-TV reported.
The Instagram post show a man in a police uniform with a badge reading “Verduzco.” A beer is in the background of the video and an animated angry man in a vehicle is shown honking and yelling.
The LAPD could not verify the authenticity of the account when it was first discovered.
Other videos from the account show a Chevy Camaro and a police officer appearing to be Verduzco in his patrol car on the job, KTLA reported.
After the crash, CHP officers did not give Verduzco a Breathalyzer that would have determined his blood alcohol content but said he did show signs of intoxication and arrested him on suspicion of felony DUI. He posted bail the following morning and was free pending charges until his arrest Friday.
“It’s a tragedy all the way around, there are no winners,” said CHP Capt. David Moeller, whose office oversaw the crash investigation.
Mario and Maribel Davila were survived by four children who were not in the car at the time of the crash. Moeller said he met with the family Friday to tell them about the arrest, and said they were appreciative that the case hadn’t been forgotten.
“They are handling this with a great deal of dignity,” he said. “They are suffering a great loss.”
Verduzco is an Army veteran who did a tour of duty in Afghanistan and joined the LAPD in 2015. He was stationed at the front desk of the Central Division before the crash.
On Friday, police Chief Charlie Beck said: “My heart goes out to the victims and families so tragically impacted by Verduzco’s criminal actions.
“Police officers have a moral and legal obligation to abide by the laws that they enforce. [The] arrest demonstrates how seriously we take that obligation.”
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3:20 p.m.: This article was updated with comment from the CHP.
12:40 p.m.: This article was updated with details of Verduzco’s first court appearance.
11:55 p.m.: This article was updated with a new information from the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
10:50 a.m.: This article was updated with a comment from LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.
9:50 a.m.: This article has been updated with new information from police.
This article was originally published at 9:05 a.m.