Prosecutor: California driver told police ‘the drunk people got in my way’ after plowing into crowd

Prosecutor: California driver told police ‘the drunk people got in my way’ after plowing into crowd

A driver accused of plowing his pickup truck into a packed crowd in downtown Fullerton in 2019, injuring nine people, explained afterward to officers that “the drunk people got in my way,” a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday.

Christopher Solis, now 27, had marijuana and a “street version” of Xanax in his system when he “made the deliberate decision” to veer off the roadway and into some of the hundreds of people who were in Fullerton’s SOCO District shortly before 2 a.m. on Feb. 10, 2019, Deputy District Attorney Caitlin Harrington told an Orange County Superior Court jury during opening statements in a Santa Ana courtroom.

Defense attorney Alan Spears denied that Solis, an Anaheim resident, was “criminally responsible” for the collisions. Solis was trying to escape from people who were chasing him, the defense attorney countered, and lost control while trying to maneuver his pickup around two illegally parked rideshare drivers.

Dashcam video from a passing vehicle showed Solis’ red 2018 Toyota Tacoma appearing to swerve around another car — leading a witness to exclaim “oh (expletive)!” — immediately followed by a volley of screams. Body-worn camera footage from a responding officer taken minutes later showed a large crowd frantically lifting the pickup off several trapped victims, as the prosecutor said others were attacking Solis out of anger.

It wasn’t Solis’ first encounter with law enforcement that morning.

A little less than two hours earlier, Solis was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol while driving 90 mph on the northbound I-5 near La Paz Road. The officer smelled marijuana and discovered marijuana buds and pills they believed to be Xanax in Solis’ pickup. But Solis passed a field sobriety test and was cited and allowed to drive off.

Solis continued driving to a music studio in Santa Ana, according to his comments to police cited in court filings, where he smoked marijuana with a friend. Then, according to the court filings, Solis headed to Fullerton to pick up friends at Heroes Bar and Grill.

According to the prosecutor, Solis while leaving an alley near Heroes backed into a wall and then swung right onto Santa Fe. He rear-ended one parked ride-share car, the prosecutor alleged, then clipped another, accelerated, veered to the right and onto the sidewalk filled with pedestrians before hopping a planter and colliding with a palm tree.

Solis told officers that “the drunk people got in my way,” the prosecutor said. He allegedly added “this (expletive) street is too packed, everyone’s drunk.”

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Solis performed “extremely poorly” on field sobriety tests, Harrington told jurors. Marijuana and a “street version” of Xanax was found in his pickup and in his system, the prosecutor added.

“Lives were changed forever because the defendant made a calculated decision that night,” Harrington said.

Spears told jurors that a group of men had confronted Solis at Heroes and were chasing after his vehicle when it left the roadway.

“He was in fear for his life and was trying to get away from those people,” Spears said. “His methodology for getting away from those people was far less than perfect.”

Spears also placed blame on the rideshare drivers, who he alleged were illegally parked, and accused police of immediately focusing solely on Solis. The defense attorney added that the drugs found in Solis’ system were “almost totally meaningless in the grand scheme of this case.”

The injured pedestrians — who ranged in age from 18 to 49 at the time — are expected to testify during the trial. Their injuries reportedly ranged from moderate to critical, though all survived. Solis’ attorney said he did not yet know if his client would take the stand.