A 4-year-old boy walking with his mother and sisters to a park in West Santa Rosa was gravely injured Thursday when he was struck by a car that sped through a crosswalk and fled the scene.
Police soon arrested Marco Lopez Garcia, 22, after a member of the public spotted the Santa Rosa resident with a light blue vehicle matching witness descriptions of the suspect's vehicle.
The person then took down the license plate of a Volvo that picked up Garcia at Finley Park about a mile away, said Sgt. Rich Celli with the Santa Rosa Police Department, allowing police to arrest Lopez at a Sonoma Avenue residence where the Volvo was parked.
"He's definitely a hero," Celli said, declining to give the identity of the man who spotted the car.
The injured child, whom police did not identify pending notification of other family members, was with his 6-year-old sister, his mother and his twin sister when they entered a marked crosswalk at the intersection of West Ninth Street at Rockwell Place around 6 p.m.
The crosswalk leads to Jacobs Park, then teeming with kids playing soccer.
One westbound vehicle stopped for the family, but a vehicle in the inside lane continued through the crosswalk, slamming into the boy at full speed, witnesses said.
"I thought he flew out of the window, out the car, he was so high in the air," said Brandii Eyler, who was just getting out of her vehicle to watch her child's soccer practice.
Eyler was left fighting tears after witnessing the collision. The boy, she said, was unresponsive, bleeding out his nose and vomiting. Police said the child had sustained life-threatening injuries and was flown to Children's Hospital in Oakland where he remained in grave condition.
Garcia, who is not a licensed driver, has at least one prior unlicensed driving arrest, Celli said.
Neighborhood children playing in front of nearby apartments said they frequently have problems using the crosswalk to get to the park or to Lincoln Elementary School, which adjoins it.
"They don't care, they just go fast," said Aldair Camarillo, 9. "I say they should put a light right there or a crossing guard."
Police are still investigating the cause of the collision. The woman who picked up the suspect in the Volvo was not charged Thursday night.
The collision is the second hit-and-run crash with dire consequences for pedestrians in the past five days.
Sunday, a 63-year-old San Francisco man was struck and killed as he was out for an evening run on River Road in west Sonoma County.
Don Andrew Casper, a prominent Bay Area Republican and a member of the San Francisco Civil Service Commission was along a stretch of the Russian River area road across from Odd Fellows Park when he was hit about 7 p.m.
The driver of the suspect vehicle, a white Ford pickup with an extended cab, remained at large Thursday and police are still seeking the identity of the driver.
There have been many injuries and in some cases, fatalities suffered by pedestrians in crosswalks during the past two years.
In Jan. 2010, not far from the scene of Thursday night's collision, Santa Rosa High School sophomore Michelle Cordova was struck and killed as she crossed West College Avenue at Link Lane after a run.