RIVERSIDE- A 22-year-old former Riverside resident accused of drunkenly running a red light and causing a crash that killed Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two other people was charged Friday with three counts of second-degree murder.
Andrew Thomas Gallo is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Fullerton.
Gallo is accused of driving with a blood-alcohol level that was nearly three times the legal limit, plowing his van through a red light in Fullerton and slamming into a Mitsubishi Eclipse at the intersection of East Orangethorpe Avenue and South Lemon Street around 12:20 a.m. Thursday.
Two people inside the Mitsubishi died at the scene. The 22-year-old Adenhart, a passenger in the Eclipse, was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center, where he died in surgery. The fourth person in the car, 24-year-old John Wilhite, was critically injured and remains hospitalized at UCI Medical Center.
The collision occurred just hours after Adenhart started Wednesday night’s game and pitched six scoreless innings against the Oakland Athletics.
Police said Gallo ran from the scene after the collision, but was caught about a half-hour later.
“This Angel and his two friends were too young to be sent to heaven,” Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said. “But the defendant selfishly and recklessly got behind the wheel after getting drunk. In addition to the three counts of murder, Gallo was also charged with felony fleeing the scene of a collision involving death, driving under the influence causing injury and driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 causing injury. The charges include a sentencing enhancement of inflicting great bodily injury.
Gallo, who Rackauckas said has a 2006 drunken driving conviction from San Bernardino and was driving on a suspended license, faces a maximum sentence of 54 years and eight months to life in prison.
Also killed in the collision were Courtney Frances Stewart, 20, of Diamond Bar, who was driving the Mitsubishi, and Henry Nigel Pearson, 25, of Manhattan Beach.
Gallo was treated at UCI for minor abrasions, released and taken to the Fullerton Police Department Thursday afternoon. He was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Gallo was driving east at about 65 mph in a 35 mph zone when he went through the red light, striking the southbound Mitsubishi, Rackauckas said. Both vehicles spun out, and one of them struck a Honda that was facing northbound on Lemon, waiting to make a left turn. The 33-year-old driver of the Honda was not injured but a passenger in the van — Gallo’s stepbrother — suffered minor injuries.
“By now, everyone should know that if you drink and drive, you could potentially kill someone,” Rackauckas said. “Mr. Gallo had no business being on the road that early Thursday morning because his license had been suspended due to the prior DUI conviction.”
Thursday night’s game between the Angels and Athletics in Anaheim was canceled as a result of Adenhart’s death, but the Angels will begin a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox tonight. Players and coaches are expected to wear black patches on their uniforms with Adenhart’s number 34 on them.
KABC reported that although his license was suspended, Gallo was allowed to drive back and forth to work and that may be the reason why the suspended license was not caught when he was ticketed twice in San Bernardino County.
Once was in September 2006 for not wearing a seat belt and the other time was in January 2007.
The four friends in the Mitsubishi were apparently headed for a Fullerton club called In Cahoots.
Wilhite, the only one of the Mitsubishi occupants to survive the crash, finished his studies at Cal State Fullerton last year and served as an intern in the sports information department. He was a catcher for the university’s baseball team and majored in communications with a concentration in entertainment studies, said university spokeswoman Paula Selleck.
Stewart, a sophomore and member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority, also majored in communications, with a concentration in journalism. She was a cheerleader last year but did not go out for the squad this year, said Brian Quinn, director of athletics for Cal State.
Pearson’s parents told KABC their son was a childhood friend of Wilhite, who also was from Manhattan Beach, and both shared a love of baseball.
Pearson played baseball, but he realized he would never be good enough to be a professional so he wanted to be an agent and attended law school with that goal in mind.
“He was pursuing that with a great deal of passion,” said Nigel Pearson, his father.
The younger Pearson represented two professional athletes and was hoping to represent more, according to KABC.