Case # 12NF0309
Date: March 6, 2015
DRUNKEN WRONG-WAY FREEWAY DRIVER SENTENCED TO 15 YEARS TO LIFE IN PRISON FOR MURDERING ONE AND INJURING TWO OTHERS IN HEAD-ON CRASH
SANTA ANA – A drunken driver was sentenced today to 15 years to life in state prison for murdering one and injuring two others in a head-on crash after driving the wrong way into oncoming traffic on two separate Orange County freeways. Ruben Gurrola, 26, Pomona, was found guilty by a jury on Nov. 14, 2014, of one felony count each of murder, driving under the influence causing bodily injury, driving with a blood alcohol level .08 percent or more causing injury, and a sentencing enhancement for causing great bodily injury.
Late on the night of Jan. 28, 2012, Gurrola left a Newport Beach bar with his then 24-year-old girlfriend Allison Poon after several hours of drinking alcohol with friends. The defendant took a cab with Poon to a friend’s house. After arriving at the home, Gurrola got into the driver’s seat of a Honda sedan and drove away with Poon in the passenger seat. At approximately 1:40 a.m., the defendant drove under the influence of alcohol on the wrong side of the freeway into oncoming traffic, heading northbound in the southbound lanes of the 241 toll road. Several motorists called 911 and had to swerve to avoid being hit by the defendant.
Gurrola transitioned onto State Route 91, while still driving on the wrong side of the freeway by heading eastbound in the westbound lanes. Gurrola crashed head-on into a Toyota sedan driven by then 57-year-old Young Kim with 53-year-old Kyung “Sally” Namgoong in the passenger seat.
Namgoong was transported the hospital and pronounced dead at approximately 2:50 a.m. Kim was transported to the hospital to be treated for back and leg pain and an ankle laceration. Poon was treated for a broken nose and pain in her neck.
Gurrola caused the crashed that killed Namgoong and injured Kim and Poon. The defendant had prior knowledge of the dangers of drinking and driving and that he could be charged with murder if he killed someone while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The defendant was transported to the hospital to be treated for a broken leg. At 3:15 a.m., Gurrola had a blood alcohol level of .17 percent. Gurrola was arrested upon his release from the hospital on Feb. 2, 2012, by the California Highway Patrol, who investigated this case.
Victim Young Kim delivered an impact statement to the court at Gurrola’s sentencing today and spoke about how he is permanently disabled as a result of the actions of the defendant. Kim mentioned how the loss of his friend Namgoong has left him with severe depression and how the defendant’s actions have monetarily and physically ruined his life.
The brother-in-law of Sally Namgoong delivered an impact statement on behalf of the victim’s sisters and said that their lives will never be the same without Sally and that coping with losing her has been devastating for their family.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.