The Coast News Group
The Escondido Police Department today is investigating the fatal shooting of a Hispanic male near the city's flood control channel. Photo courtesy of EPD
An Escondido police cruiser. Photo courtesy of EPD

Miramar Marine charged in woman’s death during police pursuit

VISTA —  A 21-year-old Marine who allegedly led police on a pursuit that ended in an Escondido crash, killing one of his passengers, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges including vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

John Eugene Brand, a lance corporal based out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, allegedly got behind the wheel of a pickup and sped away when police responded Monday to reports that a man and two women were shoplifting at Dick’s Sporting Goods on Auto Park Way.

Police chased the truck onto Washington Avenue, where the driver tried to make a high-speed turn onto Fig Street but lost control and collided with a retaining wall.

One of the passengers, identified in a criminal complaint as Shevondia Compare-Bell, died after she was taken to a hospital for injuries sustained in the crash.

The other female passenger underwent surgery and was expected t survive, according to police. She told police she asked the driver to pull over several times during the chase, but he refused to let her out of the truck, police said.

Brand allegedly ran from the crash scene, but officers found him hiding about a block away.

Police said the pickup Brand was driving belongs to the U.S. Marine Corps. Stolen articles of clothing were discovered in the truck, police said.

Brand faces up to 18 years and six months in state prison if convicted of all charges.

Along with the manslaughter count, he was charged with evading an officer causing death, evading an officer causing serious injury, kidnapping, false imprisonment, petty theft and driving or taking a vehicle without consent.

The criminal complaint also states that Monday’s alleged offenses were committed while Brand was out on bail in another felony case based out of South Bay. Details regarding that case were not immediately available.

He was initially held on $610,000 bail, but a judge denied bail at his Thursday afternoon arraignment in Vista. He’s due back in court in February for a hearing to re-examine his bail status.

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