Teen dies during reported drag race in North Chicago

Man charged with fatally striking teen during drag race

Posted: Updated:
Jose Pimentel Jose Pimentel
Suspect Mario Garcia/ Lake County Sheriff's office Suspect Mario Garcia/ Lake County Sheriff's office
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Friends and family are mourning the death of a Waukegan teenager after he was killed in a drag racing incident Friday night.

One teenager has already been charged in connection with the death and police are still investigating.

Last Friday night, Johnny Benitez asked his friend Jose Pimentel to go bowling, but Pimentel had other plans. He heard of some drag racing planned on Waukegan's southwest side and he wanted to watch.

"That night, since it was spring break, we thought let's go, out, let's go bowling," Benitez says.

Now, that roadside has become a memorial spot where Pimentel died after being hit by a drag racer.

Benitez explains that the drag racing consists of five cars racing in different directions, reaching speeds around "80, maybe 90, maybe 100" miles per hour.

Pimentel's friends say he was standing in the middle of the road, using his cellphone to record an eastbound race, when three cars came racing from the other direction. The car in the center lane struck him.

Police say the driver, Mario Garcia, 18, of Waukegan has been charged with reckless homicide, leaving the scene of a fatal accident, and drag racing. Garcia is being held on $200,000 bond at the Lake County Jail.

Waukegan police suggested that the area may have been popular for drag racing because it's an industrial area, without much traffic at night and it's not a residential neighborhood, where neighbors might complain.

Waukegan Police Commander Gabriel Guzman says they're investigating whether that area is a hotbed for racing.

"We're not sure about 22nd Street, about the racing there," Guzman says. "We've had some complaints on Waukegan Road and we have assigned officers out there to write tickets and make some stops."

Several of Pimentel's classmates stopped by to pay their respects Monday, some in tears, saying they'll miss him very much.

"When he walked in a room, like, he made everybody laugh," friend Stephanie Rosales says. "Like he was really sweet. He was a sweetheart. Always smiling."

"He had a real good sense of humor," Bueno 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.

Pimentel was a sophomore at WHS's Washington Street campus, which 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.

Pimentel's R.I.P. Facebook page had more than 2,700 "likes" as of Monday morning.

According to the Facebook page dedicated to him, the funeral for Pimentel will be held in Mexico and the family is trying to raise money for the services.

A fund-raising dance will be conducted Friday at San Luis restaurant at 50 S. Green Bay Rd., Waukegan, and memorial t-shirts are for sale. His wake is scheduled for 5-9 p.m. Tuesday at the Memorial Chapel at 1521 Washington St. in Waukegan.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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