HANFORD, Calif. (KFSN) --A man steals a car, sending officers on a high-speed chase. Minutes after the pursuit was called off, the driver crashes into an SUV full of friends and two small children.
James Moreno's mother is shocked and devastated after learning her son was an innocent victim who was killed in a DUI crash.
Family spokesperson Debra Rodriguez describes the love Moreno had for his mother, Lucy. "Every time you saw him when he left he always gave his mom a hug and a kiss."
The tragic events first began after the California Highway Patrol was alerted to a stolen 2008 Chevy Corvette on Route 201 east of Highway 99 in Kingsburg. Once officers caught up with the car, they tried to pull it over but the driver sped off.
John Tyler, Hanford CHP, says "He failed to yield and went from county roads onto dirt roads onto canal banks where ultimately his vehicle being a corvette, is just way too fast."
Despite calling off the pursuit, officers say 28-year old Victor Zavala, who they believe was intoxicated, continued to drive recklessly. Investigators say he ran a stop sign at Barstow Avenue and 6th Avenue, crashing into a GMC SUV.
In that car was James Moreno with two friends-- Sophia Solia and Marissa Campos, plus a one-month-old baby and 14-month old child. According to the CHP, Moreno was the only one not wearing his seatbelt.
Tyler says, "The children were in car seats. The one-month-old miraculously is uninjured but there was a 14-month old that, at this point, is in critical condition."
The two women are still in the hospital recovering from major injuries, including numerous broken bones and fractures.
Family members and friends are heartbroken and angry. They want Zavala brought to justice.
Bernie Rincon says James Moreno was always kind, the life of the party and was the godfather of his newborn baby boy.
Rincon says, "He wasn't thinking of anybody but himself and he took the life of my best friend and almost the lives of five other people."
Rodriguez says, "His smile would light up a room. James was always happy, very giving and would always do whatever he could to make people happy. James had big dreams and just got approved to join the corrections (department)."
Victor Zavala remains in the Kings County jail facing felony charges including manslaughter, fleeing from an officer, driving a stolen vehicle and possession of stolen property. The passenger in Zavala's car is 34-year old Olivia Flores. Officers say she is still in critical condition in the hospital.
If you'd like to donate to James Edward Moreno's family, you can do so at any Bank of America location.
BANK OF AMERICA Acct #: 325076748644