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Waukegan teen charged with reckless homicide after fatal street race

Mario Garci18 Waukegan was charged with reckless homicide aggravated street racing leaving scene fatal accident.

Mario Garcia, 18, of Waukegan, was charged with reckless homicide, aggravated street racing and leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

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Updated: April 2, 2013 4:46PM

NORTH CHICAGO — Police have made an arrest in the alleged street racing death of a 17-year-old Waukegan High School sophomore.

According to officials, an illegal drag race ended in tragedy Friday night when Jose Ivan Pimentel was struck by a car allegedly involved in the race.

On Monday, police arrested Mario Garcia, 18, of Waukegan, and charged him with reckless homicide, aggravated street racing and leaving the scene of a fatal accident. Garcia is being held on $200,000 bond at the Lake County jail.

Pimentel was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, between routes 41 and 43.

“He was out in the middle of the roadway,” Deputy Chief Coroner Orlando Tortillo said Monday.

He said that stretch of road is known as a place for street racing and Pimentel apparently misjudged the speed of a vehicle and was struck while crossing the roadway near Route 43.

Friends say the two knew each other.

According to witnesses, Pimentel and another friend were on their way to the bowling alley at Fountain Square around 8:30 p.m. when he was struck. Garcia fled after he struck Pimentel, witnesses said.

Waukegan Police Cmdr. Gabe Guzman said the two racing vehicles were headed west on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive while Pimentel and a friend were walking in the same direction on the north side of the roadway. Pimentel then stepped onto the roadway, Guzman said.

“The winner of the race was able to avoid him, but the loser in the race apparently didn’t see him,” he said.

Preliminary tests showed no drugs or alcohol were involved. Guzman said a check of calls for reckless driving on that stretch of roadway turned up nothing. The street is in an industrial and commercial area that is pretty quiet in the evening, Guzman said.

Pimentel was a sophomore at the Washington Street campus and the school is currently on spring break. The school crisis team has reached out to Pimentel’s family and friends. More is planned when students return to school next week, according to Nicholas Alajakis, spokesman for Waukegan Unit School District 60.

“Everybody here knows everybody else, so this is something that has touched us all, said principal Beth Paglia. “It’s truly a sad, unfortunate incident.”

Luis Pimentel said his cousin was thinking about joining the military after high school.

"That was something he was very passionate about," Luis Pimentel said.

Dozens of friends visited a roadside memorial on Monday, including Waukegan Beatriz Bueno.

“He had a real good sense of humor,” Bueno said.

Julissa De Santiago and Viridiana Huerta, also Waukegan teens, agreed.

“He’s the guy that always cheered you up,” said De Santiago. “He’d make faces.”

“He would always make you laugh,” Huerta added.

“He was the kind of guy who did his best to make someone smile and laugh,” said Norma Zamudio, 15, another friend from Waukegan.

Waukegan 18-year-old Jesus Solis said his friend loved playing soccer and was part of the JROTC his freshman year in high school.

“He was always in his soccer sweats and Adidas sandals,” said Solis. “His favorite color was red, and he was a Bulls fan all the way.”

Pimentel also was a member of the Symple Creations car club in Waukegan. Two years ago, he rode a low-rider bicycle in the annual Waukegan Scoop the Loop.

“We were just talking about selling his bike and getting him a car and start working on it,” said Waukegan resident Rudy Padilla, who is president of the Symple Creations car club. “He had a lot going for him."

Pimentel’s R.I.P. Facebook page had more than 2,700 “likes” as of Monday morning. Pimentel's funeral will be held in Mexico and the family is trying to raise money for the services, according to the Facebook page.

A fundraiser dance benefit will be held Friday at San Luis restaurant, 50 S. Green Bay Road, Waukegan, and memorial T-shirts are for sale. His wake is scheduled for Tuesday, March 26, from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Memorial Chapel, 1521 Washington St., Waukegan. There will be a donation box for the family.

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