Police Tuesday identified a 52-year-old man suspected of driving under the influence in a three-vehicle collision that killed three Escondido residents in September.
Initially, drugs or alcohol were not suspected factors in the crash, but police said in a statement Tuesday that following an investigation by its traffic division, DUI charges were filed against Shawn Michael Kirkpatrick and later approved by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office in October.
“The Palm Springs Police Department expresses gratitude to the Traffic Division for their exemplary investigative efforts, which were instrumental in resolving this case,” police wrote.
Kirkpatrick was charged with three felony counts of DUI gross vehicular manslaughter and one felony count each of DUI alcohol causing great bodily injury and DUI alcohol of .08% or more causing bodily injury, according to court records. He additionally faces sentence enhancing allegations of inflicting great bodily injury.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges Monday afternoon at the Larson Justice Center and had his next court appearance set for Jan. 4, 2024.
The victims were identified by the Riverside County coroner’s office as 32-year-old Yovani Aguilera Tapia, and 29-year-olds David Losacco and Millicent Lewis.
“As we prioritize the well-being of those injured and extend our support to the affected families during this challenging time, we remind all drivers to exercise caution and adhere to safe driving practices, especially when faced with adverse weather conditions,” the Palm Springs Police Department wrote in a statement Monday.
Officers responded at 2:48 p.m. Sept. 3 to a report of a three-vehicle collision on North Gene Autry Trail between Salvia Road and Via Escuela in the wash area, according to the Palm Springs Police Department.
Two vehicles traveling north on Gene Autry slowed down due to “blowing sand,” but a third vehicle “failed to decelerate, resulting in a rear-end collision that led to a subsequent impact with the third vehicle,” police said.
The driver and the two rear passengers in the other vehicle were fatally injured, according to police.
The other people involved in the wreck suffered minor to moderate injuries and were taken to a hospital, police said.
Kirkpatrick was arrested Thursday afternoon in the area of Civic Center Drive and was booked into the John J. Benoit Detention Center in Indio, where he remains held without bail.
Anyone with information about the wreck was urged to contact the department’s traffic division at 760-323-8125.