California man who rammed car of teens who played doorbell prank convicted of murder

A California man who rammed a car carrying a group of teenagers who had played a doorbell prank at his home in 2020 was convicted Friday of murder.

Three teenage boys died and three others were injured when they were struck by a car driven by Anurag Chandra, and the vehicle they were in careened off the roadway and into a pole in Riverside County, authorities said.

A jury convicted Chandra, 45, on Friday of three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder.

“The murder of these young men was a horrendous and senseless tragedy for our community,” Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in a statement Friday. “This is an important step toward justice.”

Killed in the Jan. 19, 2020, crash were Daniel Hawkins of Corona; Drake Ruiz of Corona; and Jacob Ivascu of Riverside. All were 16.

The crash happened just before midnight in the community of Temescal Valley, authorities said. The area is about 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Three other teens in the vehicle, including its driver, Sergio Campusano, 18, were injured.

Campusano told NBC Los Angeles that one of the boys rang the man’s doorbell and ran back to their awaiting vehicle as part of a prank known as doorbell ditch or ding-dong ditch.

The teens fled in a Prius, with Campusano behind he wheel, but soon they realized the target of the prank was pursuing them, he said.

The man struck the rear of the teens’ car, causing it to go off the pavement as it sped along Temescal Canyon Road at Trilogy Parkway, Campusano and authorities said.

“I whipped into my window and I blacked out and then I remember I woke up on the floor,” Campusano said. “I don’t remember how I got there. I was shaking.”

During the trial Chandra said he had 12 beers before chasing the teens and was “extremely, extremely mad,” according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise. He said he was also worried about the safety of his family, at home at the time, the newspaper reported.

He said he never intended to strike the teens’ car, but rear-ended them after the Prius braked suddenly, the Press-Enterprise reported. He didn’t stop after hitting the car because he didn’t realize there were injuries, Chandra said, according to the newspaper.

His attorney, David Wohl, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chandra faces life without the possibility of parole when he’s sentenced July 14.

The Associated Press contributed.