A 26-year-old Bellflower man pleaded guilty Monday to a hit-and-run vehicular manslaughter that killed two men in Santa Ana.

Damian Chavez was racing with another driver whose car slammed into a tree in the 3200 block of South Bear Street about 9:15 p.m. on April 20, 2019. The car burst into flames and the victims, 39-year-old Jerman Marquez and 29-year-old Richard Inda, were pronounced dead at the scene.

Chavez pleaded guilty to two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter and hit and run with permanent and serious injury and admitted sentencing enhancements for fleeing the scene of a vehicular manslaughter. Chavez is scheduled to be sentenced July 25.

Chavez’s case drew headlines in April 2020 when Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer slammed an Orange County commissioner for lowering the defendant’s bail from $100,000 to $20,000, allowing Chavez to gain his release hours later.

The commissioner cited the pandemic when lowering the bail, and rejected two appeals from prosecutors, according to Spitzer’s office.

Spitzer was critical of the state’s program to lower bail for many defendants to reduce population in the jails as sheriff’s officials throughout the state sought to keep a lid on coronavirus outbreaks.

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