What began as a harmless game of “ding dong ditch” at a friend’s house ended in utter tragedy last Sunday night for a group of California teenagers.
While hanging out together, Daniel Hawkins, Jacob Ivascu, Drake Ruiz of Corona and three of their buddies decided to play the quick prank on a friend. After running up to the door, ringing the bell and sprinting back to the car, the boys took off.
They, unfortunately, had the wrong house. It belonged to local Temescal Valley, California resident, Anurag Chandra. Soon, driver Sergio Campusano realized that the group was being followed. “I just saw these brights behind me and I realized he was getting closer and closer,” the teen told NBC Los Angeles. The next thing the boys knew, Chandra had rammed their Toyota Prius with his Infinity Q50, forcing their small car off the road and causing the group to spin out and crash violently into a tree. Three of the boys — Hawkins, Ivascu and Ruiz — were killed. The rest sustained serious injuries.
“He just got next to me and I was confused. … I just saw him ram his car into my back. And I whipped into my window and I blacked out and then I remember I woke up on the floor,” Campusano explained. “I don’t remember how I got there. I was shaking.”
The youth pastor at Northpoint Church, where the boys regularly attended, described Daniel Hawkins as “a kid who can think well” and who was “soft and tender toward others,” according to USA Today.
“It feels like a nightmare,” Mendoza lamented, “a nightmare I’m not waking up from.”
In honor of the boys, a family friend of Drake Ruiz set up a memorial evening at the site of the crash.
“He loved God. He loved his family and his brothers,” Wanda Teifel told KTLA. “He’d always come give me a hug.”
“Every kid does ‘Ding Dong Ditch,’ but you don’t know who’s behind that door,” Ruiz’s mother, Debbie, said of her son, according to The Press-Enterprise. “From the minute I heard it, I knew God had a plan … I couldn’t not think this way, because God is bigger than us.”
“He was a class clown,” the mother added. “Joy and happiness were his main priorities in life. We had a lot of fun together. Especially with their boys. It was my goal that we have fun. And we had a lot of fun.”
According to The Mercury News, roughly 100 people gathered at Northpoint Evangelical Free Church last Monday night to remember the boys and pray for the families affected. “We sang songs to God, just crying out to him for comfort and peace that could only come from him,” said Stefany Nguyen, a family friend.
Chandra has since been arrested and charged with murder.
“Our investigation led us to believe Mr. Chandra intentionally rammed the Prius, causing the driver to lose control,” said California Highway Patrol Lt David Yokley, according to the New York Post.
“The investigation has now changed from a hit-run collision to homicide.”
Do keep the grieving families in your prayers at this time.