A 42-year-old man is facing three murder charges after California officials say he intentionally slammed a Toyota Prius with his own
vehicle on Sunday night in Temescal Valley, Calif. about 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
Six teenage boys were inside the Prius, which went off the road after being hit, and three are now dead.
According to jail records, Anurag Chandra is being held without bail and will be in court on Jan. 23. He also faces several assault with a deadly weapon charges.
Officials with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) told reporters at a Monday press conference that Chandra “intentionally rammed the Prius, causing the driver to lose control” and crash into a tree on Sunday evening.
Chandra was arrested after witnesses followed him to his home and reported him to authorities, said CHP Lt. David Yokley. After CHP reviewed evidence, the department went from investigating the incident as a hit-and-run to homicide, Yokely added.
One of the teenagers was found dead at the scene, and two others later died in the hospital, the officials said. The three surviving teens received “moderate” injuries.
Officials have not yet released the names of the boys, but said all were minors except the driver who was 18.One woman, Debbie Ruiz, told reporters at a vigil that her 16-year-old son Drake Ruiz was one of the dead.
Citing one of the crash’s survivors, she said the boys were playing a prank, ding-dong-ditch, on a house where they believed someone their own age resided, “but it turned out to be that angry man.”
Ding-dong-ditch — whether a children’s prank or a horror movie trope — involves approaching a home, ringing the doorbell or knocking and quickly running away to leave the person inside confused.
Ruiz alleged that, after the teens drove off, Chandra got into his car and chased them, though CHP officials have not confirmed this detail and did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.
KTLA in Los Angeles identified the other to victims as Daniel Hawkins and Jacob Ivascu, both 16.