LOS ANGELES – Hours before an off-duty Los Angeles police officer was involved in a possible DUI crash on the 605 Freeway that killed three people, an Instagram account belonging to the officer posted video from a bar, showing a beer in the background and a message warning about drinking and driving.
The 10-second video features an animated avatar, wearing a Dodgers shirt, atop a bar counter. The cartoon character sits in a red car, honking the horn, with a message written underneath: “#dontdrinkanddrive.”
The video appears to have been posted by 26-year-old LAPD Officer Edgar Verduzco as an Instagram story some time around 7 p.m. Tuesday evening. The fatal freeway crash occurred about 10:15 p.m. near Whittier, when a 2016 Chevy Camaro rear-ended two vehicles while traveling at high speed, officials said.
A teen and his two parents were killed after their Nissan caught fire and was engulfed in flames. A 31-year-old woman in the second vehicle sustained minor injuries, and Verduzco suffered a broken nose.
Alcohol may have been a factor in the crash, according to the California Highway Patrol, which said Verduzco was arrested on suspicion of felony driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter.
A second video posted to the account Tuesday night, a few hours after the first, shows a group of people playing Jenga and appears to have been taken in the same location.
LAPD has not confirmed the account belongs to Verduzco, but photos posted to the account clearly indicate it’s his. A tipster sent the Instagram story to KTLA on Wednesday afternoon.
At least seven of the posts made this month include the page’s owner in LAPD uniform or make other references to law enforcement involvement. One uploaded in July has the poster’s name badge – reading “Verduzco” – clearly displayed.
Other posts also make reference to military service, and one posted in August shows the account owner’s official U.S. Army portrait. Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck confirmed Verduzco served three years in the Army during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Numerous images on the account feature a dark gray Chevy Camaro, the same type of car that was involved in the fiery crash. The license plate number shown on the Camaro in some of the Instagram photos is registered to Victor and Edgar Verduzco, KTLA confirmed. That car was registered as a 2016 model year, which California Highway Patrol has confirmed was the model year of the vehicle in the crash.
The first image uploaded to the account, on July 28, includes the vehicle.
Verduzco’s bail has been set at $100,000, inmate records show. He is being held at the Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles.
Beck said the department has “no tolerance” for drunken driving.
“I cannot tell you how angry and disappointed I am that a Los Angeles police officer would disregard the law and cause an accident with such awful, awful consequences,” Beck said during an early afternoon news conference.
The family killed in the crash had not been identified by late afternoon, but CHP officials indicated they were from Riverside.