Community outrage had been building over widespread incidents of alleged street racing throughout the city. Then, as if on cue, a crash near one of the reported epicenters of the illegal practice killed a Bakersfield woman and injured two children riding with her in her minivan.

It happened at dusk Sunday afternoon on one of the primary entry roads into the Seven Oaks residential development. A man apparently engaged in a street race on Old River Road, between Ming Avenue and White Oak Avenue, less than a mile west of The Marketplace shopping center, lost control and struck the woman's vehicle at approximately 4:45 p.m.

A red Mustang and gray Dodge Ram were involved in a street race, Bakersfield police confirm, when the Mustang lost control and struck the van, which was not involved in the race.

The van was sent spinning out of control and into oncoming traffic, where it was then broadsided by a crane truck, killing the woman. The Kern County Coroner's office identified her Tuesday morning as Maria Blaney Navarro, 58, of Bakersfield. She died at the scene.

Police arrested the driver of the Mustang, identified by police as Ronald Pierce, 50. He was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence causing injury, gross vehicle manslaughter while intoxicated, reckless driving, reckless driving causing injury and engaging in speed contest, police said.

Two juveniles in the van were taken to the hospital with moderate to major injuries. The crane truck driver was not injured and remained at the scene.

Pierce, who was booked into Kern County Jail Monday morning, is due in court at 3 p.m. Tuesday. His bail was set at more than $30,000.

Criticism has recently mounted from residents throughout the city and particularly in areas with long, wide straightaways such as Gosford Road, Ming Avenue and Ashe Road, over a perceived increase in street racing and parking-lot gatherings that some believe promote street racing. Bakersfield police have asked for the public's help in reporting such activities, an appeal that has only intensified criticism.

"I have been calling for over three years now," Susanna Gardner wrote in an email to The Californian last Thursday, three days before the fatal crash. "(I have placed) security calls, I have submitted detailed online reports, I have spoken to the many different offices and specifically the traffic division.

"We have children having to go to school (every weekday) morning, people having to go to work. It is so loud that you cannot even make a phone call. This has been going on for over three years at this schedule, not counting the added weekend stints."

"If the status quo remains as it has been for these past years then there will be more Ming and Old River road (wrecks)," reader Joe Cooper wrote Monday morning.

Bakersfield City Councilman Bruce Freeman, in whose ward the crash occurred, said Bakersfield police have been in ongoing discussions with property owners over the issue. Monday afternoon, Freeman said, he spoke with Castle & Cooke executives about the racing issue and the company's Gosford Village shopping center, which some racers seem to have adopted as a staging area.

"(Castle & Cooke) said they had been consulting with police and determined that the best solution for shopping center owners is to put in speed bumps, which they plan to do, as was done at The Marketplace years ago" with success, said Freeman, under whose watch as CEO in the late 1990s and early 2000s Castle & Cooke Homes developed The Marketplace and later the Seven Oaks neighborhood.

"Apparently, these speeding groups have lookouts and methods of communication that instantaneously announce locations specifically to fool police," Freeman said. "I have been in contact with the police even today. They have already conducted additional rotations on weekend nights. They are all over this. ... This is a serious criminal activity and (we) want the book thrown at the perpetrators. One thing the police keep stressing is they need as much information from the public as possible to help solve this; eyes and ears everywhere."

The incident hits the Bakersfield Police Department at a particularly challenging time. Last week BPD Chief Lyle Martin announced his pending resignation after three years in the top post to take a job in the District Attorney's office.

Martin released a statement Monday afternoon declaring the department's resolve.

"We will continue our efforts to stop the public from engaging in illegal street racing activity," he wrote in a prepared statement. "The Bakersfield Police Department will remain diligent in educating the public through continuous enforcement operations, as well as partnering with local, state and federal agencies to attempt to prevent these incidents from occurring."

Martin said BPD conducted overtime traffic enforcement on Nov. 22-23 in the southwest areas of Bakersfield "where we have received the majority of complaints." BPD issued nine citations, impounded four vehicles, arrested four for driving under the influence (one), parole violation (one) and driving while unlicensed (two).

Martin said BPD would partner with the California Highway Patrol "in the immediate future" to more effectively fight street racing and "work hand in hand with the district attorney’s office to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent of the law."

Sunday's fatal crash inspired the creation of an online petition demanding that the city act more forcefully to put an end to street racing.

The petition, posted at, asks signers to "join us to tell city of Bakersfield elected officials and our police department that nightly street racing in SW Bakersfield has to stop! Do not allow their silence to be acceptable!"

"Where is the response from our city leaders? Why can't city leaders work collaboratively with businesses and shopping center owners to put in preventive measures? ... How many innocent people will be killed? Waiting for new police cadets via Measure N funds is not an acceptable answer," wrote the petition's author, Susan Houghton, who lives a short distance from the scene of Sunday's wreck.

"I hear the sirens daily," wrote petition-signer Ken Schmitz. "Please do something before there is another fatality!"

Contact The Californian’s Robert Price at 661-395-7399, or on Twitter: @stubblebuzz. His column appears on Sundays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; the views expressed are his own.

(12) comments

Jack Turner

The family should sue the city of Bakersfield, and the owners of the Khols parking lot for allowing these gathering of illegal modified vehicles. My neighbors and I have been calling every weekend for the past 5 years, and it is getting worse by the weekend. Property value is depreciating and people moving out because of this. Before long, it will become exactly like the east side ghetto of Bakersfield. Perhaps that is what everyone wants. My condolences to the family. That driver should get the death penalty!


Why was only one person arrested? Two were racing and responsible for her death.

All Star

Because perhaps the driver of the other vehicle didn't stick around?


I moved to Bako 20 years ago from No.Calif. The first thing I noticed was how fast people drive on public streets AND how little the police wrote traffic tickets. Routinely, drivers on Ashe Road drive well over 50 mph and many go over 60 mph. In 20 years I have yet to see BPD write one ticket on Ashe. From Stockdale to Ming ave on Ashe is like a race track. The police have their hands full I know, but in 20 years not seeing one ticket issued on Ashe is a bit much. The BPD could post just one officer on Ashe and write tickets all day long for speedingt.


What is the speed limit on the streets you're complaining about? A lot of streets in town are posted at 50 MPH.

Inconvenient Truth

55 mph


We have to have our police start enforcing laws such as RED LIGHTS. Put in camera's. I don't care, but it has become a joke around this town. People will abuse laws if you do not enforce them- the use of the camera's always makes people think twice about running it. But until the police start enforcing these laws it will only get worse. Just look at the homeless problems-if they would just enforce simple laws this would never be the problem it is and will be. You can't even get a police car to come to an accident or write up a report any more. Terrible. I want to support our officers but someone is telling them to take a back seat to enforcement.


Again where was the the Chief's retirement party....AWOL!

Jack Turner

lol good one! It takes half the BPD police force to stand around a chalk line every night when there is a murder.. That is where they are at when you need them, takes 40 rings for dispatch to answer, then they tell you there are more important things to do, making street racing a low priority. Where they got our current chief of police is beyond me. He is weak , and he needs to move to Chicago where most of that city is corrupt, and keep corruption out of the BPD. Would be a good place for him, and take Mr. Don Youngblood with him

Bill Peloquin

Police can help by enforcing the current laws of red light running and speeding. Which is something I see every time I drive or cycle in town.


Street racing at 50 years old and under the influence?? This guy should be in prison until the day he dies. Condolences to the family of this tragedy.


Absolutely horrific. God bless that poor family who lost a loved one due to the recklessness of these cretins. The police need to get their arms around this thing in the southwest because it is out of control.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.