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Prosecutors charge two men with murder in killing of girl during police pursuit

Prosecutors charged two men with multiple felonies, including murder, in connection with a police pursuit that ended in the death of a 6-year-old girl who was pinned against a wall while playing outdoors in her Lake View Terrace neighborhood, authorities said Tuesday.

The alleged driver, Aaron Esqueda Rojas, 32, and Juanquin Hiriarte, 24, were charged with one count of murder as well as evading an officer causing death, being a felon with a concealed firearm in a vehicle and carrying a loaded firearm with a prior conviction, said Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Both men are being held in lieu of $1.05-million bail.

Prosecutors alleged the men were in a red sedan that was fleeing police when it turned onto a residential street in Lake View Terrace and struck the girl as she played near Birch Grove and Fenton Grove lanes.

Rojas is the suspected driver of the vehicle. Hiriarte allegedly was tossing guns from the vehicle as police were pursuing the car. A third man, 49-year-old Manuel Araujo Ydiarte, was charged with possession for sale of heroin. Ydiarte was being held on $30,000 bail.

All three defendants are scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in San Fernando Superior Court.

The girl's father, Matt Woods, said last week that he didn't blame police for the accident that killed his daughter.

The pursuit began Thursday after plain-clothed narcotics officers observed the men while following up on information on drug sales in the area, police said. Uniformed officers in a patrol car were summoned to detain the suspects, who initially obeyed orders to pull over, but then sped off, according to Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck.

Beck told The Times that from the preliminary account of the incident it appeared officers had followed the department's policies and procedures for initiating a pursuit. The regulations leave the responsibility with the officers to "weigh the seriousness of the offense against the potential dangers to themselves or members of the community," according to the LAPD's manual.

-- Andrew Blankstein

 
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