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Man sentenced to 20 years to life for Pomona pursuit crash that killed innocent driver

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A man who sped away in his car from police through a Pomona neighborhood, crashing into another uninvolved car and killing the driver, was sentenced Tuesday to nearly 20 years to life in state prison.

Eli Lopez, 25, was found guilty of second-degree murder earlier this year for the Feb. 3, 2021 crash that killed 26-year-old Rolando Pinto-Mendez.

Lopez, an ex-con, raced up to speeds of 106 mph in a stolen Honda after police attempted to pull him over for running a stop sign.

Police ended the pursuit less than a minute later because of Lopez's dangerous driving, as he ran through several other stop signs.

Pinto-Mendez died just minutes away from his home after his car was struck by Lopez's speeding car. The crash was so violent, it sent both cars careening into a neighbor's yard. After the crash, Lopez ran from the scene and was found hiding in a nearby backyard.

At Lopez's sentencing, the victim's aunt, Maria De Rosario Ortega, questioned why Lopez didn't stop, saying that her nephew would have been able to see his younger brother graduate from high school.

She called her nephew (Pinto-Mendez)  "selfless, kind, responsible and loving" and said he was a huge fan of "Batman," adding that she thought the defendant should think of him every time he sees the Batman character or logo.

Superior Court Judge Mike Camacho ordered Lopez, whom he said had a "significant" prior criminal history, to serve 19 years and eight months to life behind bars. His sentencing also included charges of evading causing death, hit-and-run causing death and driving a vehicle without consent.

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