High-speed chase kills an innocent man

Victim's distraught family questions 
Sheriff's Department pursuit policy

By Angelica Martinez, amartinez@VenturaCountyStar.com

A Camarillo man who led county sheriff's deputies on a high-speed chase is suspected of causing an accident that killed a father of six Sunday morning.

David Inder Bagai, 31, drove off about 9:10 a.m. from the Ponderosa Drive and Temple Avenue intersection for unknown reasons, reaching speeds of 80 mph, deputies said.

The Sheriff's Department said a patrol unit was stopped at the intersection waiting to continue driving west on Ponderosa Drive when Bagai, who was in front of the deputy, switched lanes and drove away.

The deputy gave chase using his siren and red lights to try to pull Bagai over, but he refused to stop, the Sheriff's Department said.

The chase ended 90 seconds later after Bagai allegedly drove through three red lights and broadsided a vehicle driven by construction worker Stephen Aguirre, 39, of Camarillo.

Aguirre, who was on his way to practice hitting balls at a golf course, was heading south on Carmen Drive when the two vehicles collided. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Aguirre's children range in age from almost 2 to 17, said his wife, Kristlle Aguirre, 28.

"I'm very hurt," she said. "My family is devastated. My children, we're all devastated."

His wife said she tried to reach Aguirre after she had not heard from him for several hours. He usually called if he was running late and had planned to be gone for only an hour, she said.

Authorities personally notified her of his death several hours after the crash.

Aguirre's family members said they are disappointed with the Sheriff's Department's pursuit policy and think the man's death could have been prevented if the deputy had not chased Bagai.

"They could have just let him go. They had his license plate number and could have caught up with him later. I'm very angry and disappointed in the police," Kristlle Aguirre said. "I feel that my husband's life was taken for no reason. They could have waited. They didn't have to pursue him (Bagai) in this fashion, like they did."

Sheriff's Capt. Bob LeMay said Sunday that the chase will be investigated by the department's internal affairs unit to make sure the deputy involved followed the policy. LeMay said that appears to be the case at this point.

"Vehicle pursuits are hot items because of consequences like this," LeMay said. "All policies are under review during incidents like this. The deterrence of crime and the apprehension of crime is sometimes as important as the incident itself. There needs to be a balance in what we do and public safety."

LeMay said he could not discuss details of the policy, referring questions to top management. County Sheriff Bob Brooks could not be reached for comment.

Authorities said they did not know why Bagai fled from deputies in the first place.

Aguirre's exact cause of death will be determined today when an autopsy is completed.

Bagai, who suffered a leg injury, was taken by ambulance to Ventura County Medical Center. He remained in the hospital Sunday evening but is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

He was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and of causing death or injury while evading arrest.