Boy hit in Santa Rosa crosswalk dies of injuries
Published: Friday, August 19, 2011 at 7:22 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 19, 2011 at 4:13 p.m.
Police say the suspect in a fatal hit-and-run crash that took the life of 4-year-old Santa Rosa boy was cited for driving without a license less than a week before he plowed through a West Ninth Street crosswalk Thursday night and killed the youngster.
Marcos Lopez Garcia, 22, was cited once for unlicensed driving last year and then again last Saturday, with instructions to appear in court Oct. 18 and ordered not to drive until then, Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Rich Celli said Friday.
Instead, Garcia, who lives just a few blocks away from Lincoln School and adjoining Jacobs Park, found himself westbound on West Ninth Street as a Santa Rosa woman and her three young children were in a crosswalk at Rockwell Place headed to soccer practice, Celli said.
The driver in the inner westbound lane stopped, police said.
But Garcia kept on going, smacking the 4-year-old boy so hard he flew about 30 feet, police said.
The boy had been lagging behind his mother, who was urging him on, and two sisters who were nearly if not already across the street when their brother was struck, Celli said.
The child, whose name has not been released because his parents are still struggling to inform family members of his death, was flown to Oakland Children's Hospital, where died about 7:30 a.m. Friday, police said.
Celli said Garcia's car was impounded for 30 days when he was caught driving without a license last year.
It was not impounded last weekend, however, at the discretion of the Santa Rosa police officer who stopped him on nearby North Dutton Avenue. Celli said police hope Garcia's defiance of orders received at that point not to drive will be factored into his prosecution.
But the incident has proved gut-wrenching for many involved, Celli said, and frustrating because of the effort authorities have made in recent years to reduce pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and fatalities in Santa Rosa.
“We did over 100 special operations regarding intersections, speed, red lights” and other traffic safety issues under grant-funded programs last year, Celli said.
“But it all comes back to drivers and pedestrians following the rules of the road,” he said. “We can't be at every intersection, every day, all day.”
Police said the deceased boy was with his twin sister, a 6-year-old sister and their mother as they crossed the four-lane road north to south at Rockwell Place across from the busy park.
An enhanced, hatchmarked crosswalk there is marked by a fluorescent green pedestrian sign without the special overhead flasher of the type that marks the crosswalk in front of the school about one-tenth of a mile further west on West Ninth.
Residents in the area say it's always dangerous to cross and should have at least an overhead flasher, as neighborhood kids from Lincoln Manor and elsewhere often cross there instead of in front of the school.
“It's not safe here,” said Lori Melendez, who delivered a stuffed red teddy bear to the intersection Friday in remembrance of the boy who lost his life there, placing it at the base of a light pole a few feet from where the boy was struck.
“My kids are scared,” said a neighborhood mom, Gloria Zarr, who was with her 4-year-old son, Adrian, and has three others, aged 6-to-12.
Besides one stop sign at Link Lane about a tenth of a mile to the east, the closest signal lights are at Stony Point Road and Dutton Road, almost a mile apart.
The speed limit is 30 mph except near the school when children are present, when it is 25.
Celli said police had not calculated Garcia's speed as he approached the crosswalk, struck the victim and then just kept on driving.
Witnesses provided police with a description of his light-blue Honda sedan with a large San Francisco Giants decal in the rear window. One even recognized the car and provided Garcia's address, though police did not find him or the car at home.
Meanwhile, another citizen deemed a hero by police, Santa Rosa resident Leroy Flach, was listening to his police scanner on his way home from work on nearby Stony Point Road.
Flach heard the Honda's description and wondered to himself “where would I go if I were going to try to hide a car?” Celli said.
“And he went to Finley Park,” Celli said. “He knew where the collision was. He turned into the park and found him.”
Flach found Garcia's Honda in a parking area on the southeast side of the park at Stony Point Road and West College Avenue and saw Garcia peeling off the tell-tale decal, Celli said.
He watched as Garcia then climbed into a light-blue Volvo sedan driven by a woman and followed the Volvo, noting the license plate number before losing sight of the car near Santa Rosa Plaza, Celli said.
Police used the license plate number to track the Volvo down to an apartment on Sonoma Avenue, near Juilliard Park.
They confronted Garcia there at about 7:50 p.m., and he provided a statement linking him to the crash, Celli said.
He was arrested for suspected felony hit and run and driving without a license, though police intend to request more serious charges now that the boy has died, Celli said.
Garcia was being held without bail because of an immigration hold, jail personnel said.
The woman has not been arrested, though the case remains under investigation.
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