Prosecutors put the brakes on alleged speed racers

File photo: Tire marks cover the road on Constellation Road in Valencia, near where actor Paul Walker was killed in a car crash on Nov. 30, 2013. A recent street racing operation in the area recently netted more than 100 arrests, many of which were addressed in court Thursday. Katharine Lotze/Signal
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Half a dozen men accused of taking part in an illegal speed racing event this past summer have appeared in court this past month on a variety of racing related charges.

Four months ago, in an effort to rid Santa Clarita Valley of illegal street racing, local sheriff’s deputies and California Highway Patrol officers arrested at least 109 people at an illegal street racing event in the Valencia Commerce Center in Castaic.

A total of 102 arrests were made for participating or simply watching the illegal speed event, California Highway Patrol Captain Edward Krusey told The Signal in June.

Seven people were arrested for organizing the illegal event or driving in it.

In the past month, CHP investigators completed the paperwork needed to prosecute the alleged offenders including six of the seven suspects singled out as having had an active part in organizing the event.

– Brian Atwater, 20, of Palmdale, was charged on Sept. 2 with one misdemeanor count each of engaging in motor vehicle exhibition of speed on a highway and a section of the Los Angeles County municipal code.  He is scheduled to be arraigned next month.

The municipal code violation includes being present as a spectator at an illegal racing event, or to knowingly be present as where preparations are being made for such an event.

– Johannes Michael Hansel, 19, of Canyon Country, was charged on Sept. 25 with one misdemeanor count each of engaging in motor vehicle exhibition of speed on a highway, reckless driving on a highway and being a spectator at an illegal motor vehicle speed contest or exhibition.

Hansel pleaded not guilty Sept. 26 and is due back in court later this month for a pre-trial hearing.

– Jason Leyva, 19, of Canyon Country, was charged on Sept. 25 with one misdemeanor count each of engaging in motor vehicle exhibition of speed on a highway and reckless driving on a highway. He is scheduled to be arraigned next month.

– Redwin Padua, 21, of Castaic, was charged Sept. 25 with one misdemeanor count each of engaging in motor vehicle exhibition of speed on a highway and reckless driving on a highway.

He pleaded no contest on Sept. 26 to both charges and entered into a diversion program, Ricardo Santiago, spokesman with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said.

– Christian Ramirezsalvador, 32, of Canyon Country, was charged Sept. 11 with one misdemeanor count of engaging in motor vehicle exhibition of speed on a highway.  He is to be formally charged next month.

– Gabriel Elias Feliciano, 34, of Santa Clarita, was charged with three misdemeanors: driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, driving with a .08% blood alcohol content or more and possessing a controlled substance, cocaine.

Feliciano was arraigned on the charges last month in the Santa Clarita Courthouse.

The arrests were the result of a joint forces effort – dubbed the Illegal Street Racing Operation – and was carried out by local sheriff’s deputies and CHP officers as part of a countywide crackdown on illegal street racing, California Highway Patrol Captain Edward Krusey said at the time of the arrests.

“It isn’t just the reckless driving or racing that is illegal as the onlookers discovered,” he said.  “A momentary loss of control which can happen all too easily can have devastating consequences for both the divers and spectators.”

Local law enforcement, together with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, set out to shut down what has become known on the streets as a “Sideshow.”

Joint forces participants, acting on intelligence gathered, carried out their operation at the industrial park in Castaic, a location bustling with people during the day but left to become a “ghost town” at night.

The long wide asphalt streets attract street racers to perform “burnouts,” “donuts” and “drifting,” CHP officers said, all of which are illegal.

“Through intelligence, we believed it would occur that night,” Krusey said about the operation.  “It has definitely been a problem.”

 

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