Aleksandar Apostoloic, 26, from the Santa Ana area, was arrested around 1 a.m. after an hours-long search. The investigation scene near Hoover Street and Trask Avenue was still active by 5 a.m.
Vivian Uyen Nguyen, a student at Johnson Middle School, was pronounced dead at the hospital. She was riding in a van with her mother and 13-year-old brother when they were hit. The mother and son are in critical but stable condition at UCI Medical Center, according to police.
The girl's father, Thomas Nguyen, visited the crash site Friday and broke down as he mourned his daugther. He said his daughter loved to paint and play the piano.
"I only have one girl. I love her so much," he said through tears.
He said his wife and son were still unaware that Vivian had died.
"I'm scared to tell [my wife]. I lied to her," Nguyen said.
He left the crash site, faced with the grim task of telling his family Vivian was killed. The incident began around 6 p.m. Thursday when an officer recognized Apostoloic in the Westminster area. Apostoloic was wanted on suspicion of a weapons violation and drug trafficking.
Apostoloic rammed the cop car and sped away. The officer was rushed to the hospital and suffered minor injuries.
The chase lasted about two minutes before Apostoloic rammed into the mini-van and another car, and flipped his own SUV.
"He climbed out of the truck, and jumped over the wall and he was gone," said witness Robert Ramirez. "Me and my wife, we ran to the van to see what we could do. The driver got out right away and she was crying, full of blood. And me and my wife ran out to take her a towel, and we were going to see if we could help the passengers, and the girl in the back wasn't even conscious."
According to police, Apostoloic left the scene of the crash and a search perimeter was set up. At about 11:55 p.m., a woman called 911 about an unknown man who she saw exiting a bathroom in her home and fleeing out the back door.
An Anaheim police helicopter eventually spotted a heat source, and Apostoloic was found hiding in the bushes.
Apostoloic will be charged with murder. Westminster police Sgt. Cameron Knauerhaze said authorities decided the charges were appropriate after learning the girl died.
"This was an innocent family driving, not harming anybody, minding their own business, at the wrong place at the wrong time. Very tragic," said Knauerhaze.
The suspect will also be charged with reckless evasion and assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer.
Meantime, a memorial is growing at the crash site, as classmates and teachers at Johnson Middle School cope with Nguyen's death.
"This is a heartbreaking loss for our school and community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family," Andre Illig, Johnson Middle School principal, said in a statement. "Counselors will be on-site to help our students and staff cope with this tragedy."