A 22-year-old man is accused of driving more than 100 mph to avoid police when he crashed, breaking the jaw of a passenger as the stolen car skidded 150 yards on its side and convertible top.
Victor M. Diodoro apparently was caught off guard by heavy traffic on Highway 395 in Kennewick and tried to drive around two vehicles, but the car fishtailed on the slippery road and hit a concrete barrier south of the blue bridge.
Law enforcement officers, who pulled Diodoro and his two teenage passengers from the smoking car after the Dec. 12 crash, suspected the driver of being under the influence of narcotics.
On Thursday, Diodoro pleaded innocent in Benton County Superior Court to vehicular assault, possession of a stolen vehicle, attempting to elude police and third-degree driving with a suspended or revoked license.
The attempting to elude charge includes an endangerment allegation, which could add time to the sentence if Diodoro is convicted.
Prosecutors said Diodoro, of Pasco, has been convicted nine times in the past three years for driving while his license is suspended.
According to court documents, Jose Sanchez Dominguez's red Mitsubishi Eclipse convertible was stolen from a gas station the morning of Dec. 12.
At 6:50 p.m. the same day, Benton County sheriff's Detective Jeremy Carrigan saw the stolen car at Kennewick Avenue and Olympia Street. Carrigan and a fellow detective were in an unmarked patrol car wearing gang unit uniforms and, even though their car is equipped with lights and sirens, they called for backup while following the Mitsubishi.
The detectives noted that the driver was a man wearing a baseball hat, and at least one female was in the car.
Kennewick police responded to assist the detectives. Carrigan activated his emergency lights on Clearwater Avenue and the Mitsubishi initially appeared to pull toward the shoulder, but suddenly accelerated and continued west, documents said.
Carrigan then turned on his siren. The stolen car made such a wide turn onto Dennis Street that it went into the oncoming lane of traffic, then went onto Ely Street and the driver ignored the stop sign at the intersection with 395, court documents said.
That's when the Mitsubishi took off down the hill at 100 mph, so Carrigan "eventually slowed his pursuit due to concern about danger to other motorists on the roadway," Deputy Prosecutor Kristin McRoberts wrote.
Carrigan reportedly was on Highway 395 at the point where it crosses over Canal Drive when he observed traffic at the bottom of the hill where it meets Highway 240.
The detective saw the Mitsubishi brake and fishtail before it went around two other vehicles. The car braked again and swerved into the inside barrier, hitting the concrete on the driver's side.
The Mitsubishi was tipped onto its side in the crash and skidded about 100 yards, before flipping over onto its top and traveling another 50 yards, documents said.
Law enforcement, fearing the smoking car was going to catch on fire, quickly pulled the occupants out. Officers claim Diodoro appeared to be the driver by his position in the overturned Mitsubishi, while a 17-year-old girl was in the front seat and a 16-year-old girl was in the back.
The three were taken to Trios Health in Kennewick, where the older girl was treated for a broken jaw.
Traffic on Highway 395 was blocked for about an hour while officers cleared the scene.
Three bindles of methamphetamine were found underneath the Mitsubishi after it was flipped back over by a tow truck, court documents said.
Diodoro was interviewed by investigators and initially denied being the driver before admitting that he was the driver, documents said. He also allegedly admitted using meth earlier in the day, but denied that the drugs found at the crash scene belonged to him.
Diodoro claimed he didn't know the Mitsubishi was stolen, and said one of the girls had picked him up in the car and told him to flee from police.
However, the 16-year-old's mother told detectives at the hospital that a young man had picked up her daughter and the other girl at her home earlier that evening, documents said.
Diodoro's trial is scheduled Feb. 18. He's being held on $50,000 bail, and was ordered to have no contact with the two girls or the car's owner while the case is pending.
w Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer