A Union City man was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and DUI after he crashed a sports car he was test-driving in Ontario in Southern California, killing a used car dealer, police said.
Alex Demetro, 28, had allegedly been using drugs when the red Chevrolet Corvette he was test-driving at nearly 70 mph clipped a light pole and crashed into a tree at Mercedes Drive and Concours Street at 12:46 p.m. Tuesday, according to Ontario police.
Both Demetro and the car dealer, identified as 43-year-old Warren Smale, were taken to San Antonio Community Hospital in critical condition. The Montclair man was pronounced dead at the hospital, police said.
By Wednesday, a makeshift memorial honoring Smale was growing at the accident site.
Demetro had been taking the Corvette on a five-minute test drive from a CarMax auto dealership. Smale was riding in the passenger seat and was a CarMax employee, police said.
Police said it appears Demetro was high on prescription drugs and was speeding when he lost control of the car and crashed. He was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of drugs.
"There's no way to really describe somebody like this," said Smale's father, Dennis. "He knew he had the drugs and he knew he couldn't handle a car and he shouldn't have been showing off."
Smale grew up in Pennsylvania and was loved by his family, especially his mother, Shirley, his father said.
Dennis Smale said his son was a kind and loving person who moved to Montclair about three years ago to find a promising career. Customers say he found that at CarMax.
"I don't really like car salesmen — I shouldn't say that — but he wasn't pushy, he was very nice," Bonnie Willet said.
Glenn and Bonnie Willet bought a silver car from Smale Tuesday. It is possibly the last sale he made before his untimely death.
"It was really an excellent experience that we had with Warren," Glenn Willet said. "I only knew him three days but he was a friend."
Reacting to the news of his former co-worker's death, Robert Sotela said he was "just shocked, just unbelievable." He described feeling "pretty much devastated to say the least."
Sotela also stressed that Smale likely had no idea about Demetro's condition.
"If he had any idea that the person that caused the accident was a bad person or under the influence, he wouldn't have taken him out," he said.
CarMax officials issued a statement Wednesday expressing remorse for their employee's death.
"Today is an incredibly sad day for the CarMax family," it said. "Our hearts and prayers go out to our associate's family. CarMax is working closely with the authorities on the investigation."
Meanwhile, the suspect's cousin Paul Demetro also offered a statement on behalf of his family.
It said: "On behalf of the Demetro family, we offer our deepest condolences to the family of Warren Smale. Our thoughts [and] prayers are [with] them."
People who live in the same East Bay complex as Demetro told NBC Bay Area that they weren't surprised by his actions or arrest.
One neighbor asked to stay anonymous for fear of retribution, but deemed the suspect a "hellraiser" who intimidated and got into fights with neighbors.
Demetro would "go through here at 40 or 50 mph and then do donuts," the man said, adding that he has struck multiple cars while racing his black Mustang through an alleyway.
He also got into a "physical altercation," the neighbor said, which led to him being slapped with a restraining order.
The man said Demetro was evicted from his townhouse last month, while Ontario police said that he only recently relocated to Pomona.
Union City police confirmed to NBC Bay Area that officers have "contacted" Demetro at least twice in the past. They would not elaborate on whether was ever arrested, but said that previous incidents were not major or violent.
Ontario police are asking anyone with information about the crash to contact Officer Brian Olivo at (909) 395-4646, via a tip line at (800) 782-7463 or online at www.wetip.com.
NBC Bay Area's Rhea Mahbubani contributed to this report.