We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?

They came alone and in groups on Friday, carrying sorrow and anger to the Santa Rosa crosswalk where an unlicensed hit-and-run driver struck a 4-year-old boy who later died.

"His parents must be devastated," said Alma Rodriguez, who came with her teenage daughter to "show our respect to the family."

She and others brought flowers and stuffed animals and called for safety measures at the busy West Ninth Street and Rockwell Place intersection.

"I worry so much," said Maria Gomez, 35, who has three children, aged 3 to 9, and lives in an apartment complex that looks over the intersection.

"I'd like to see them put a light there, or at least a stop sign, because people respect those."

Police said the suspect, Marcos Lopez Garcia, 22, was cited for driving without a license less than a week before Thursday's accident about 6 p.m. He is suspected of plowing through the crosswalk and hitting the boy as he crossed the street with his mother and sisters.

The boy, a Brush Creek Nursery School student whom police have yet to identify, died Friday morning at Oakland Children's Hospital.

"It's absolutely tragic," said Julie MacDonald, the school's director, describing him as a "sweet, sensitive, mild-mannered...boy who would crawl up in your lap and want some hugging, lots of loving."

She declined to name the boy.

Garcia was cited once for unlicensed driving last year and then again last SaturdayAug. 13, , when he was ordered not to drive, Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Rich Celli said Friday.

On Thursday, Garcia, who lives just a few blocks away from Lincoln School and adjoining Jacobs Park, was heading westbound on four-lane West Ninth Street as a Santa Rosa woman and her three young children were in the crosswalk headed to soccer practice, Celli said.

The driver in the inner westbound lane stopped. But Garcia kept going, smacking the youngster so hard he flew about 30 feet, police said.

"Most cars don't ever stop for the pedestrians," said Juan Parra, 20, a nearby resident who stood by one of two impromptu memorials that sprang up Friday. He was among more than a dozen people who made the same complaint and said the intersection is known in the neighborhood as a dangerous one.

The boy had been lagging behind his mother, who was urging him on, and two sisters, one 8 and the other his 4-year-old twin, who were nearly if not already across the street when he was struck, Celli said.

Four white circles a dozen or more feet apart, painted by police technicians, showed where the boy was thrown after he was hit.

"He crashed right there, then he rolled over, then he slammed right there," said Luis Huesca, 11, a fifth grader at Lincoln Elementary School, who said he saw the accident.

"We need a flasher or a stoplight," Huesca said.

The hatchmarked crosswalk 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.

Besides a stop sign at Link Lane about a tenth of a mile 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. But residents said it is routinely surpassed.

"You hear them racing by," said Rodriguez. "And there's kids all over. They use the school for a playground."

Celli said police had not calculated Garcia's speed as he approached the crosswalk. He had been instructed not to drive until Oct. 18, when he was due in court to face charges of driving without a license.

Garcia's car was impounded for 30 days when he was caught driving without a license last year, said Celli.

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 the incident has been gut-wrenching for many involved. He said that police hope Garcia's defiance of orders not to drive will be factored into his prosecution.

Those gathered at the scene Friday held various opinions about the suspect's unlicensed status.

"People who do have licenses drive like this too," said Cynthia Marquez, 17.

But Edgar Gonzalez, 44, said that without a license, Garcia would presumably have been uninsured. "Who's going to pay for what happened?" he said.

He added, "When people get licenses, they study for how to drive and they know the rules of the road."

Beyond mourning, the main concern of those who came to the crosswalk on Friday was that it be made safer.

"My kids are scared," said Gloria Zarr, who was there with her 4-year-old son, Adrian, and has three others, ages 6 to 12.

Christian Ramirez, 14, pulled a sheet of paper from a binder and started a petition to "plead for a light" at the intersection.

"We just decided to do something about it," he said. "Did you sign?" he asked someone passing by.

Within minutes the Santa Rosa High School sophomore had 25 signatures. Soon his friends were fanning out through the neighborhood apartment complexes to gather more.

"We're totally going to do this, because we want to make a difference," he said.

"It's not safe here," said Lori Melendez, who delivered a stuffed red Teddy bear to the intersection Friday, place it at the base of a light pole a few feet from where the boy was struck.

Show Comment