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NASCAR star Bobby East has been stabbed to death in a brutal attack at a gas station, with his alleged killer shot and killed in a dramatic standoff with police.
East, the three-time, USAC National Champion driver, died on Wednesday following the attack which happened while he was filling up his vehicle at the 76 gas station in Westminster, California. He was 37.
Westminster Police said officers were called to reports of a stabbing at around 5.51pm. They arrived on scene to find the racing star lying on the ground suffering from a serious stab wound to the chest. East was rushed to hospital where he died from his injuries.
The suspect – 27-year-old Trent William Millsap – had fled the scene before officers arrived with a huge manhunt launched to try to track down the “armed and dangerous” killer.
Investigators closed in on Mr Millsap two days later, after receiving a tip that he was hiding out at an apartment block in the city of Anaheim.
A SWAT team swooped on the location to arrest the suspected killer and an officer-involved shooting broke out, Westminster Police said.
A law enforcement source told TMZ that Mr Millsap was shot and killed on the scene.
Police said that no officers were injured but a police K-9 sustained a non-life-threatening gunshot wound.
The shooting is now being investigated by the Westminster Police Department and the Orange County District Attorney’s office.
Millsap, who has multiple face tattoos, was described as a known transient who already had an outstanding warrant out for his arrest at the time of East’s murder.
It is not clear if East knew his killer, with no motive given for the attack.
The Independent has reached out to Westminster Police for further information.
Tributes poured in from the racing car world for East as news of his murder spread. Two-time NASCAR Champion Todd Bodine tweeted he was “very sad” about East’s death, calling him “one heck of a wheelman”.
“Very sad to hear of the tragic incident involving Legend USAC driver Bobby East. He was one heck of a wheelman. Thoughts and prayers to his family,” he wrote.
Automobile Racing Club of America’s communications manager Charles Krall also remembered East for his driving skills and sent his condolences to his family.
“In an open wheel car, there was no one better. So sorry to hear the news today,” he tweeted. “My love and thoughts are with his parents Bob and Janice, and the entire East family. Race in peace Bobby.”
As the son of USAC Hall of Fame car builder Bob East, East appeared on the racing scene more than two decades ago when he was still a teenager.
Aged 16, he became the youngest winner ever of the USAC National Midget Series in 2001 and subsequently won the USAC’s Rookie of the Year.
Over the years, he won 22 USAC National Midget Series titles, three USAC national driving titles and three SAC Silver Crown championships.
He took part in his last USAC race in 2014 when he led a race-high 54 laps and finished third in the Silver Crown season finale in Syracuse, New York.
He also raced in 42 NASCAR national competitions between the years of 2005 and 2008.
The US Auto Club described him as “one of the most prolific drivers of his era”.
Anyone with information about the fatal stabbing is urged to contact the Westminster Police Department at 714-548-3212, or Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS or by logging on to www.occrimestoppers.org. Callers can remain anonymous.