3 killed, 1 hospitalized after Lynwood crash involving driver fleeing from police

Amy Powell Image
Monday, February 6, 2023
3 killed, 1 hospitalized in Lynwood crash after police chase
Three people were killed and another hospitalized after a crash involving a driver who was fleeing from police, authorities said.

LYNWOOD, Calif. (KABC) -- Three people were killed and another hospitalized early Sunday morning after a crash involving a driver who was fleeing from police after a possible catalytic converter theft, authorities said.

The incident started in South Gate and ended in a two-vehicle crash around 2 a.m. at State Street and Tweedy Boulevard in Lynwood, officials say.

Two people were pronounced dead at the scene, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said. Two others were transported to a hospital, where one of them died and the survivor's condition was unknown.

The county coroner's office Sunday afternoon identified two of the three deceased individuals: James Griffin, 20, and Flavio Balderas, 60.

Balderas' wife, Michaela Balderas, died at the hospital, according to family.

Family says the couple attended a quinceañera celebration and were heading home when the crash happened.

"They told us that our dad passed away at the scene, and my mom was rushed to the hospital, and she didn't survive," said Astrid Balderas, the couple's daughter. "They weren't drinking. They don't drink. They were just hardworking people."

The incident began in South Gate when patrol officers spotted what they thought was a catalytic converter theft, according to South Gate police. They approached the individuals, but they drove off at high speeds, initiating a pursuit.

South Gate crash
Firefighters are seen at a fatal crash site in South Gate.

Police later canceled the pursuit due to the suspect's dangerous speeds, the sergeant said. But shortly afterward, the driver crashed at Tweedy and State in Lynwood.

The amount of time that elapsed between the chase cancellation and the crash was unclear, the sergeant said.

News video from the scene of the crash showed two mangled vehicles. Investigators said speed was a factor in the collision.

Relatives say Griffin was a passenger in a car driven by a friend.

Griffin's grieving mother is frustrated, saying police have given her very little information. His family wants answers, and say other witnesses saw them being chased.

Balderas' children and other family members are devastated.

"They were both wonderful people with really kind hearts and they didn't deserve this," the couple's daughter Nayeli Balderas said.

A GoFundMe page has been created to raise funds for the couple's funeral.