Man intentionally rammed car of teens, killing 3, after ding-dong-ditch prank, victim's mother says

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Thursday, January 23, 2020
Teens killed in crash after game of ding-dong-ditch
Police say it all started with a game of ding-dong-ditch and the man who answered the door, chased after them.

TEMESCAL VALLEY, Calif. -- Three teenagers were killed in a Southern California crash after one of the victims' mother said they played a ding-dong-ditch prank on a man who allegedly chased them with his car and intentionally rammed his vehicle into theirs.

Authorities said 42-year-old Anurag Chandra intentionally rammed a white Infiniti into the victims' Toyota Prius occupied by six people Sunday night. The Prius slammed into a tree after the driver lost control and veered off the road.

Three teenagers in the car were killed, who were identified as Drake Ruiz, Daniel Hawkins and Jacob Ivascu, all 16 years old. The remaining three victims sustained moderate injuries.

Officials said Monday there was no immediate word on what may have prompted Chandra to ram the teens. Ruiz's mother told reporters Monday night the teens, who were on their way to a sleepover to celebrate Ivascu's birthday, tried to play a "ding-dong-ditch"' prank -- ringing a doorbell and quickly driving away -- at a friend's home, but Chandra answered the door, got into his Infiniti and chased the teens.

"The boys were playing ding-dong-ditch at a house they thought was ... somebody their age, but it turned out to be that angry man,'' Debbie Ruiz said.

She said when Chandra began chasing them, "they fled for their lives basically.''

"They were scared to death, tried to get away several times,'' she said. He rammed them, ran them off the road.''

Chandra was arrested a short time later in a neighborhood near the crash site after the California Highway Patrol said a witness followed the suspect and helped authorities locate the vehicle.

"It was an intentional act," CHP Lt. David Yokley said at a news conference, although he did not disclose a motive. "Our investigation led us to believe Mr. Chandra intentionally rammed the Prius, causing the driver to lose control."

Chandra was booked on suspicion of murder with malice and assault with a deadly weapon. Authorities said he is also facing a pending misdemeanor spousal battery case from four months ago.

A memorial with flowers and candles has been growing at the site of the crash. Local residents, even those who did not know the teens, were paying their respects and mourning the loss for such an apparently senseless reason.

"There are lives that didn't have a chance to succeed doing something," said James Meador of Temescal Valley. "Being great, being the next president, being the next inventor. They never had a chance because of somebody's blind rage."

The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.