Assistant News Editor
At approximately 12:37 a.m., a Richmond Police officer witnesses a Mazda 6 run a red light at the intersection of Second and East Canal streets. The Mazda T-bones a Toyota Yaris; the Yaris spins into a nearby building after the collision.
VCU sophomore Carolina Perez is in the backseat of the Yaris at the point of impact. She is taken to VCU Medical Center, but dies a few hours later from her injuries.
VCU students Gabrielle Atkins and Jan Garcia are pulled from the Yaris. Both are taken to MCV for injuries that aren’t life threatening.
Varinder Chahal, a senior accounting major at VCU is the accused driver of the Mazda that collided with the Yaris. He is charged with felony involuntary manslaughter, driving under the influence and refusal to submit to blood and breath tests.
Neither Chahal nor any of the four other passengers in his car are injured in the crash.
Gabrielle Atkins and Jan Garcia are released from MCV. Atkins suffered two broken ribs, a bruised lung, liver and kidney. The whiplash from the crash fractured a vertebrate in Garcia’s neck. Both are expected to make a full recovery.
Family and friends gather at St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Virginia Beach for Carolina Perez’s funeral. More than 420 people attend, including about 40 VCU students. The university provides free transportation to the noon mass.
Chahal’s bail is set at $25,000 at the Richmond General District Court with the intent to allow him to finish his degree at VCU. Chahal surrenders his passport and driver’s license.
A university spokesperson confirms his enrollment at VCU but cannot confirm whether he will return to VCU to finish the semester.
Prosecutors raise Chahal’s charge from involuntary manslaughter to aggravated involuntary manslaughter at a hearing in Richmond Circuit Court. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors drop Chahal’s lesser charges of involuntary manslaughter, driving under the influence and refusal to submit to a breath or blood test.
Ed Riley, Chahal’s attorney, said he plans to contest the charge.
“We’ll see how the case develops, how the evidence plays out,” Riley said. “At this point, we’re looking at the charges, and we’re going to see what the government can prove.”
Mourners gather in the Commons Plaza to establish “Carolina’s Pledge,” a denouncement of drunken driving in the VCU community.
Students who knew Perez share their memories and admonitions with a crowd of about 60 people.
“Tonight is a reminder that drunk driving does not just come down to statistics,” Elise Isom said.
“Carolina was a real person. She had a real family. She has real friends. She had a real life. It was interrupted by a careless, reckless act that could have been prevented,” Isom said.
Chahal hearing scheduled Wednesday. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for his role in the drunken driving crash that killed Perez.