John Eugene Brand, left, appears in court to face charges in a deadly pursuit crash. (San Diego CBS affiliate KFMB-TV/YouTube)
A Marine in California who was out on bail in a pending carjacking case allegedly led police on a high-speed pursuit in a stolen military truck that ended with a crash that killed his friend and injured a second passenger.
John Eugene Brand, 21, faces a slew of charges, including vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, in the death of Shevondia Compare-Bell. Appearing with a black eye in court, he pleaded not guilty to the charges on Thursday and is set to appear again in February.
The ordeal began on Monday at about 10:28 p.m. Escondido police officers responded to Dick’s Sporting Goods store on reports of a male and two females stealing merchandise, according to a news release from the Escondido Police Department.
As officers arrived, the suspects entered a pickup truck and drove off. Officers pursued the truck east through Escondido onto Washington Avenue, where the driver tried to make a high-speed turn onto Fig Street but lost control and hit a retaining wall.
The two passengers were ejected, and the driver ran away, authorities said.
The women were taken to the hospital, where Compare-Bell died. Tiara Elizabeth Sam, the other passenger, underwent surgery and was expected to survive, police said.
Brand was arrested after officers found him hiding a block from the crash scene, officials said. He was booked into jail. In addition to charges of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, he faces charges of kidnapping, evading police with wanton disregard for safety, evading police causing serious injury or death, evading a police officer, hit and run resulting in death or injury, burglary and conspiracy, authorities said.
Brand is a lance corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, authorities said. The pickup truck he was driving belongs to the U.S. Marine Corps. Officers recovered stolen articles from the truck.
Compare-Bell’s mother, Shakyla Bell, told San Diego NBC affiliate KNSD that her daughter and Brand had once dated and were friends. She remembered her fondly.
“Everything about her makes me smile,” she told the station. “She was perfect. She was full of life, always smiling, joking, dancing, clowning off with her siblings.”
“The two female passengers begged the defendant to stop. He refused, saying that he was not going to go to jail,” said Deputy District Attorney Helen Kim, according to the news station, local CBS affiliate KFMB-TV. “He drove in excess of 90 mph, ran through red lights, drove on the opposite side of the road and collided into a pole.”
Brand was on bail on supervised release and was barred from leaving the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar stemming from a pending carjacking charge, the outlet reported.
“He is a clear and present danger to the public and there are no conditions and no combination of conditions that will ensure the public safety or ensure that the defendant return to court,” said Kim in court, the station reported.
Brand, from Kansas, joined the Marines more than two years ago, a Miramar spokesperson told the outlet.
In a statement, Capt. Stephanie Leguizamon said they are cooperating with Escondido police and local law enforcement.
“An accident occurred last night involving a 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing government vehicle,” the statement said. “We can confirm that Lance Corporal John Brand, a Marine assigned to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, was involved. LCpl Brand is being held by local authorities with an active investigation underway.”
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