The parents of three California teenagers-who were best friends most of their lives, say they forgive the man who is responsible for their children’s deaths. All due to a “ding dong ditch” prank that ended horribly.
According to PEOPLE, Daniel Hawkins, Drake Ruiz, and Jacob Ivascu did everything together. The three friends had a packed January holiday weekend with fun activities like a birthday dinner, wrestling, and a sleepover.
During their fun-filled Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, the three teens, all 16, were together at the Hawkins’ house when the group set off for a game of Ding-Dong Ditch.
The trio, along with Jacob’s 14-year-old brother Joshua and Daniel’s 13-year-old brother, also named Joshua, piled into a Toyota Prius driven by their friend, Sergio Campusano, and drove around the neighborhood ringing doorbells.
At one point, Joshua Ivascu rang the doorbell of a neighbor identified as 42-year-old Anurag Chandra. As Ivascu dashed back to the waiting Prius, Chandra opened his door and decided to hop in his car and chase after the teens.
Ultimately Chandra, who was driving an Infiniti, slammed into the back of the Prius, causing it to veer off the road and slam into a tree. The three best friends were killed on impact and Sergio Campusano was seriously injured.
Chandra was later arrested at his home by the California highway patrol, and charged with three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder. He pleaded not guilty on Feb 21.
Although the families of the teens want justice to prevail in the case, the mourning parents revealed that they have already forgiven Chandra.
Jacob Ivascu’s mother Ramona says her son would want her to forgive him: “He would say, ‘Mom, you have to forgive him. You have to. Because unforgiveness does not bring any closure.”
Drake Ruiz’s father, Billy, explained that his religious faith helps him, saying forgiveness is “what we believe.”
More than anything, the families want to honor their sons’ legacies. “I don’t want them to become a statistic — like, ‘Oh, three teenage boys killed,’” Daniel Hawkins’ father, Craig said.