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Vigil Held For Rolando Pinto, Driver Killed After Pomona Pursuit Ended In Crash

POMONA (CBSLA) — Dozens of people holding candles converged Thursday night on the site of a violent crash that left 26-year-old Rolando Pinto dead to pay their respects and pray.

Rolando Pinto
Rolando Pinto, 26, was killed Wednesday after a pursuit suspect crashed into his vehicle in Pomona. (Family photo)

"He didn't deserve this," Karina Gomez, Pinto's aunt, said. "He was young. He was bright. He was caring."

Gomez said her nephew was a talented graphic artist with a kind soul who always helped others.

He died just two minutes away from his home Wednesday afternoon when the suspect at the center of a police chase violently crashed into his car at the intersection of San Antonio Avenue and Philadelphia Street in Pomona.

"No respect for others," Gomez said. "No respect for life."

The crash was so violent that it sent both cars careening into Rose Torres' yard.

"It was just so senseless," she said.

Torres said the first motorcycle officer to arrive immediately went into life-saving mode.

"She was the one who had the fire extinguisher, before my mom was getting the hose," Torres said.

But she said the first officer did not arrive immediately.

"It was within five minutes," Torres said.

That brief delay seems to corroborate statements from the Pomona Police Department that officers had backed off the chase after they said the suspect, 22-year-old Eli Richard Lopez, ran a stop sign and began driving erratically to get away. Police said it was only later that they learned the car was stolen.

Lopez, who ran from the scene after the crash, was caught hidden in a nearby backyard and has since been charged with murder.

Pinto's father was so distraught after he learned about his son's death that his family said he had a heart attack that put him in the hospital where he was still recovering Thursday.

Neighbor Mike Suarez said he wishes police would not start pursuits anywhere near residential neighborhoods.

"Police have to be more responsible with what they do," he said. "They have a track record for forgetting about the community."

According to department policy, Pomona "officers and supervisors must objectively and continuously weigh the seriousness of the offense against the potential danger to innocent motorists, themselves, and the public when electing to continue a pursuit."

But Pinto's aunt said the suspect was responsible for her nephew's death, not the police.

"I can't say I blame the police, I really don't," Gomez said. "It all falls on the actions of the guy who was driving. He knew what he was doing."

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover funeral expenses. As of Thursday evening, it had raised more than $11,000.

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