MEAD VALLEY, CA (The Press-Enterprise) – A 30-year-old Perris man was in custody in Washington state Tuesday in connection with a street racing collision in Mead Valley earlier this month that took the lives of two young brothers, the California Highway Patrol said.
Josue Leyva-Gallegos was arrested by U.S. Marshals at the Department of Motor Vehicles building in Kent, Wash., when he tried to register a vehicle there, the CHP said in a news release.
Leyva-Gallegos is from Mexico and was previously deported there in 2012 by the Immigration and Custom Enforcement Agency, an arrest declaration filed in Riverside County Superior Court said. He also is the cousin of a man already charged in the street racing deaths, Ricardo Zuniga, 26, of Perris.
Zuniga told investigators Leyva-Gallegos had previously lived in Washington, records show.
Leyva-Gallegos “is currently in custody in Washington awaiting extradition for two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, each with a sentencing enhancement of fleeing the scene of a crime,” the CHP said in its statement.
The CHP said Leyva-Gallegos and Zuniga were street racing May 15 on Oakwood Road, east of Brown Street, when Zuniga’s teal 1992 Honda Accord struck a blue 2015 Nissan Versa in which Dominic and Antonio Gonzalez, ages 6 and 7, also of Perris, were riding in the back seat.
Both boys died from their injuries shortly after the crash.
On the date of the race, Zuniga told investigators, he used the opposite lane of traffic to pull up to Leyva-Gallegos, driving a black Nissan. Zuniga said he wanted to invite his cousin over to his house, but when he looked over at Leyva-Gallegos, he said, “You ready? I, 2, 3” to Zuniga, according to investigators.
“Zuniga stated he knew that meant (Leyva-Gallegos) wanted to race,” the declaration said. After the countdown, both men sped down the street, taking up both lanes. “Zuniga stated he was unable to swerve out of the way or stop his vehicle before colliding with the Nissan Versa.”
After the collision, Leyva-Gallegos approached Zuniga and asked if he was OK. “Zuniga did not know where Leyva-Gallegos went after that and he was surprised (Leyva-Gallegos) fled the scene before officers arrived,” the court document said.
Zuniga has been charged with two murder counts and pleaded not guilty May 23 in Riverside County Superior Court, District Attorney spokesman John Hall said Tuesday afternoon. His next court appearance is set for June 27. Zuniga also pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of driving without a valid license, and not having insurance.
Zuniga, who talked to investigators while hospitalized with injuries from the crash, was in custody Tuesday in the Robert Presley Detention Center in downtown Riverside in lieu of bond on $2 million bail.
The CHP said several agencies, along with the public, helped to find Leyva-Gallegos. Among those involved were the U.S. Marshals Service, Pacific Southwest Regional Fugitive Task Force, Team 6, and the Riverside County District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation.
The black Nissan that court documents say Leyva-Gallegos was driving on May 15 has not been found.
Anyone with information regarding the collision, “including photographs and cell phone videos”, is asked to call the Riverside California Highway Patrol Accident Investigation Unit, at (951) 637-8000.