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Former NASCAR driver Bobby East killed in stabbing at California gas station, officials say

The suspect in the stabbing was killed two days later in an encounter with law enforcement when they tried to arrest him, Westminster police said.
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Former NASCAR driver Robert "Bobby" East was fatally stabbed Wednesday at a Southern California gas station, authorities said.

The suspect in the stabbing was killed two days later in an encounter with police who tried to arrest him at an apartment complex, Westminster police said.

Bobby East poses for a photo during the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series media day at Daytona International Speedway in 2006.
Bobby East poses for a photo during the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series media day at Daytona International Speedway in 2006.Rusty Jarrett / Getty Images

Police were called shortly before 6 p.m. to a gas station in Westminster, an Orange County city, and found East with a stab wound to his chest, the department said in a statement.

East, 37, was taken to a trauma center, where he died of his injuries, officials said.

Westminster police detectives identified a parolee from Orange County, Trent William Milsap, as the suspect.

When the West County SWAT Team went to an Anaheim apartment complex Friday to serve an arrest warrant, Milsap "became confrontational," a police dog was deployed and Milsap was ultimately killed in a shooting with police, the department said.

The motive for the attack that killed East was not known, police said Saturday.

Westminster police initially described Milsap as a transient know to frequent hotels in Westminster as well as in nearby Garden Grove and Anaheim. An earlier news release on the attack spelled the suspect's last name as Millsap and said he was 27.

He was on parole for armed robbery and an arrest warrant had been issued for him on an unrelated parole violation, police said.

In its statement, Westminster police said East has been identified as a former NASCAR driver.

The Westminster department said East is from San Dimas, a city in eastern Los Angeles County.

Early Saturday evening NASCAR released a statement acknowledging the death of one of its own.

“NASCAR is saddened to learn of the tragic death of Bobby East," the sanctioning body for stock car racing said. "We extend our deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Bobby, a true racer."

East raced in NASCAR's Xfinity Series in 2005, 2007 and 2008, according, which tracks NASCAR records. He also raced in NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series in 2005, 2006 and 2008, the site indicates.

He earned his chops behind the wheel in multiple United States Auto Club, or USAC, races and series. USAC said in a statement Saturday that East won 22 USAC National Midget feature races, took 56 wins overall at USAC-sanctioned races, and has three USAC national titles, the last coming in 2013.

His team at the time was Tony Stewart Racing, run by NASCAR legend Tony Stewart, NASCAR has noted.

He also drove for RFK Racing (once known as Roush Fenway Racing), which tweeted Saturday, "Our team is incredibly sad to learn today’s news about Bobby East."

"The news of this murder is Tragic and wrong," RFK racing owner Brad Keselowski, a NASCAR Cup champion, tweeted. "He and his family were true racers. Prayers for justice and peace."

USAC, a sanctioning body for specific racing series such as National Sprint Cars, said East was the son of USAC Hall of Fame car builder Bob East and wife Janice.

Bobby East's first career triumph with the USAC National Midgets in 2001 made him the organization's youngest national feature race winner at the time, USAC said. He was 16.

East was born in Torrance, a coastal city in Los Angeles County, but moved to Brownsburg, Indiana, to mount his racing career, USAC said. It's not clear why he was in Westminster, about 33 miles south of San Dimas.

"Very sad to hear of the tragic incident involving Legend USAC driver Bobby East," two-time NASCAR champion Todd Bodine tweeted. "He was one heck of a wheelman. Thoughts and prayers to his family."

The California Attorney General's Office is tasked by state law with investigating deadly officer-involved shootings.

CLARIFICATION (July 18, 2022, 12:38 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated a team East raced for. It was Tony Stewart Racing, not Stewart-Haas racing. The article also misstated that the United States Auto Club sanctions some NASCAR races. NASCAR is its own sanctioning body.