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.
Press Democrat Poll
What type of warning did you receive about last October’s fires? (Multiple responses allowed)
Official alert on my landline: 5 percent
Official alert on my cellphone: 17 percent
Neighbor warned me: 14 percent
Family member or friend warned me: 28 percent
Police or fire came to my home to warn me: 5 percent
None: 43 percent
Don’t know: 1 percent
In the future, how would you like to be notified about a fire or other impending disaster?
Phone call: 31 percent
Text message: 30 percent
Email: 1 percent
Air raid siren: 28 percent
Other (specify): 7 percent
Don’t know: 3 percent
Do you think Sonoma County is more prepared today to warn you about fires or disasters than it was last year?
Yes: 54 percent
No: 31 percent
Don’t know: 15 percent
SOURCE: The Press Democrat Poll/David Binder Research
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here