As family grieves loss, prosecutors file formal charges against suspect in fatal Palm Springs collision

The family of a man killed in Downtown Palm Springs Monday night during a multi-vehicle collision is remembering him as kind-hearted and gentle. On Thursday, the man accused of causing his death pleaded not guilty to formal charges filed against him.

Leon Reynoso, a 36-year-old Chula Vista resident, was set to celebrate his 37th birthday next week. On Monday evening, he succumbed to injuries at Desert Regional Medical Center approximately 30 minutes after the collision that occurred at 5 PM near the busy intersection of North Palm Canyon Drive and Alejo Road. Palm Springs Police Chief Andy Mills said six people in the five vehicles involved were injured. Aside from Reynoso’s death, Mills said one other person suffered “major injuries.”

Reynoso was in the Coachella Valley with his sister visiting friends, his sister said. His vehicle was rear-ended by a conversion van that police said was speeding, setting off a chain reaction. Witnesses said the van had been seen running red lights as it barreled toward the intersection along North Palm Canyon Drive.

“He was the one always willing to go the extra mile for anybody and everyone,” Denia Reynoso, Leon Reynoso’s sister, told our broadcast partner NBC Palm Springs. “I know people say he was the life of the party, but he really was kind-hearted, gentle, [and] funny.”

The family has started a fund to help cover funeral expenses for Reynoso. Contributions can be made here. To date, more than 200 individuals have contributed.

“I wish it had been me and not him,” his sister said. “I feel like I am just going through the motions of today but it’s still surreal … for my whole family.”

On Thursday, The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office charged Andrew Watson Hibbard of Portland, Oregon with one felony count each of murder and DUI causing bodily injury as well as sentence-enhancing allegations of injuring multiple victims. Hibbard appeared at the Larson Justice Center and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was subsequently scheduled for a felony settlement conference on Feb. 16 and remains held on $2 million bail at the John Benoit Detention Center .

Riverside County court records show Hibbard, 41, was convicted of DUI in Palm Springs in 2008. Oregon court records show he also has a DUI conviction there in 2006. The DUI conviction was dismissed in 2008 after he completed a diversion program.

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