The driver who ran down a car full of teenagers who had played a doorbell-ringing prank on him at home has been convicted of murder.
Anurag Chandra, 45, was convicted by a jury in Riverside, California on Friday of three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder for chasing down a car carrying at least six teenagers who had allegedly played “ding dong ditch” — the prank of ringing a doorbell and then running away — at Chandra’s home the night of Jan. 19, 2020.
Chandra, who did not know the boys, chased the teens in his car, an Infiniti, eventually reaching 99 mph before rear-ending them. The Prius carrying the teens lost control, slamming the car into a tree, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Jacob Ivascu, Drake Ruiz, and Daniel Hawkins, all 16, were killed. The Los Angeles Times reported that firefighters pulled three other teens from the car. Joshua Hawkins, 13, and Jacob’s brother Joshua Ivascu, 14, along with driver Sergio Campusano, 18, were seriously injrued, the local news Press-Enterprise website reported.
The teens were reportedly having a sleepover and one dared their friends to pull the prank, according to the LA Times, citing an investigation by the California Highway Patrol.
Chandra had testified that the prank made him “extremely, extremely mad,” according to the Associated Press.
The local news Press-Enterprise website reported that Chandra testified at trial that he drank 12 beers in the hours before the crash. He reportedly did not stop after rear-ending the Prius.
Chandra had pleaded not guilty to all charges.
“The murder of these young men was a horrendous and senseless tragedy for our community,” Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in a statement. “I thank the jury for their verdict. This is an important step toward justice.”
Chandra’s attorney David Wohl told the Los Angeles Times that the conviction is a “complete overreach” and that he is planning to file a motion for a new trial.
“I think that we felt worst-case scenario would be voluntary manslaughter, but we also thought we had made a great case for an acquittal outright,” Wohl told the newspaper. “The battle has just begun as far as I’m concerned.”
Wohl said that media reports that the teens had played a simple prank on Chandra are misleading, and that a teenager had “exposed himself, with pants pulled down below his rear end,” after pounding on Chandra’s door at 10:30 p.m., the Press-Enterprise reported.
Wohl reportedly said that his client’s wife and daughters were inside the home and that he was “in extreme fear for their safety,” according to the Press-Enterprise.
Family members of the teen victims say that Chandra was lying.
“We are happy to see justice was served even though in this day and age it is hard to come by,” Alex Ivascu, the father of Joshua and Jacob, said after the verdict was read, the Press-Enterprise reported. “But we had a reasonable jury that looked at the facts and realized that the facts speak louder than words — or lying words from the defendant.”
Chandra already was facing criminal charges in connection with alleged domestic violence in 2020 at the time of the deadly crash, the Associated Press reported.
Chandra is currently in custody and has a sentencing date of July 14. In California, the penalty for first-degree murder is 25 years to life in prison.
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