Two people were killed and a third seriously injured in a collision Tuesday caused when the driver of a stolen pickup broadsided two cars in Kings County after an aborted pursuit by law enforcement, the California Highway Patrol reported.
The driver of the stolen pickup, identified as Mitchell Kauffman, 19, of Fresno, had moderate injuries from the Tuesday morning crash at Grangeville Boulevard and 22nd Avenue, about three miles south of Riverdale.
The vehicle Kauffman was driving, a 2001 Chevrolet Silverado, was reported stolen in Fresno last week, said CHP Officer Adam Barresi.
About 8:15 a.m. CHP officers got a report of a reckless driver near Highway 180 and Highway 41 in Fresno. After spotting the vehicle, officers learned it was stolen, he said.
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Officers attempted to stop the driver, but he didn’t yield, triggering the chase on southbound Highway 41, Barresi said. After the pickup went into Riverdale, officers ended the pursuit, he said.
The stolen pickup struck an eastbound GMC pickup and a westbound BMW at the intersection of 22nd Avenue and Grangeville Boulevard.
The Silverado was then spotted driving through an orchard and a second pursuit began, but as the driver returned into Riverdale, officers ended the pursuit again, Barresi said.
A few minutes later, at 8:52 a.m., the crash occurred when Kauffman, driving south on 22nd Avenue, slammed into a westbound BMW sedan and an eastbound GMC pickup in the intersection on Grangeville Boulevard. Barresi said the Silverado was moving at a “high rate of speed” but it wasn’t clear how fast the pickup was going when it struck the other vehicles.
A 20-year-old from Fresno, a passenger in Kauffman’s pickup, died at the scene along with the driver of the GMC pickup, Barresi said. That driver was identifed as Jose Barajas Villegas, 51, of Corcoran. The 20-year-old’s identity is pending next-of-kin notification, said Kings County Coroner Shawn McRae.
Both Kaufman and the driver of the BMW were airlifted to Community Regional Medical Center. The driver of the BMW suffered major injuries.
Kauffman will face multiple felony charges, Barresi said.