Boyle Heights residents mourned an 11-year-old girl killed Friday night when the driver of a Mustang speeding on Whittier Boulevard slammed into a car that struck members of a family lined up at a taco stand.
The 21-year-old driver of the 2015 Ford Mustang, identified by CBS News as Louie Pérez, was arrested and charged Saturday with vehicular manslaughter. His 16-year-old passenger was arrested on possession of nitric oxide and police investigated if drugs played a role on the devastating crash.
Police said the suspect was going between 60 and 70 miles an hour Westbound on Whittier when he lost control of the Mustang and veered into the Eastside lane and crashed into a Nissan parked in front of the taco stand, set up in front of a gated parking lot at 2740 East Whittier Boulevard. The parked Nissan hit the girl and other adult female relatives, pinning them against a wall. The Mustang also struck a 2005 Chevrolet Silverado parked behind the Nissan.
Witnesses told KABC that other customers at the stand lifted the Nissan to rescue the injured and detained the driver of the Mustang.
The victims were transported to a nearby hospital where the girl, identified by LAPD as Elektra Yepez, later died. Two women -a 45-year-old who suffered a fractured leg and wrist and a 53-year-old who suffered a head bruise– were said to be sisters. According to authorities a third victim was a 31-year-old woman who complained of pain. A 15-month child who was presumably thrown as a result of the crash was taken to the hospital for observation.
— Joy Benedict (@joybenedict) November 11, 2017
A gofundme page was set up to help the family raise funds for the girl’s funeral. Family members told KCBS she was a sixth grader at Endeavor College Prep in Boyle Heights.
According to a social media post, a taco sale on Tuesday will also help raise funds for the family:
Fundraiser for Elektra Yepez, we appreciate Tacos Anahis for their efforts in raising awareness and money for my baby sisters funeral expenses. We welcome and appreciate anyone who can come an support us through this rough patch💛
2740 Whittier Blvd pic.twitter.com/iwfLmsdXTZ
— Yael Yanez (@YaelYanezz) November 12, 2017
On Saturday, a Teddy Bear, a running shoe and a small doll were part of an altar set up at the site of the crash, where area residents stopped by to light candles, leave offerings and mourn the young victim. Some drivers stopped their cars in front of the altar, including a woman and a teen girl who got off their vehicle and kneeled in front of the altar to pray.
Customers walking to La Mascota Bakery and other nearby businesses stopped to snap shots of the altar. A young man walking with his infant daughter said he knew the driver of the Mustang. He said the owner of the taco stand regularly parked the Silverado truck in front of the stand to shield customers against traffic on one of Boyle Heights main arteries.
A large, oily stain in front of the altar marked the spot where the speeding vehicle hit the parked cars. Police said there were no visible skid marks on the street, showing Pérez apparently made no attempt to stop the speeding vehicle. Witnesses told KABC that the Mustang went airborne before crashing. LAPD Hollenbeck Captain Ruby Flores told KABC Friday night that the department’s street-racing task force was on scene investigating the accident.
Friday night’s fatal crash occurred a little over a year after a 48-year-old customer was killed while standing in front of another Boyle Heights taco stand. A 34-year-old woman was accused of driving drunk and crashing into several people in June of 2016 at the stand on the corner of Fourth and Gless Streets.
All photos by Antonio Mejías-Rentas
This story was updated on 11/13 to correct spelling of victim’s name and add other details.