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Suspected driver arrested in Guerneville hit-and-run that killed Berkeley cyclist

The 28-year old man sought by authorities in a hit-and-run crash Sunday near Guerneville that killed UC Berkeley’s top lawyer was arrested Tuesday in Monte Rio.

Jonathan Ritter surrendered about 4:30 p.m. without incident near the amphitheater on Main Street.

The arrest, by CHP officers who were in the area looking for Ritter, brought an end to a two-day search for the man now described by authorities as the suspected driver responsible for fatally striking cyclist Christopher Patti, 59, the chief campus counsel at UC Berkeley, on Highway 116 Sunday morning.

Ritter was taken to the CHP’s Santa Rosa office where he was questioned by officers who planned to take him to Sonoma County Jail to be booked on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony hit and run causing death, said CHP Sgt. Erik Egide.

Officers had previously identified him as the possible driver of the black BMW involved in Sunday’s fatal hit-and-run after speaking with the car’s registered owner and others.

In the wake of the crash, law enforcement responded to multiple reports of Ritter’s whereabouts, and around 4 p.m. Tuesday Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies had set up a perimeter near a house on Starrett Hill Drive after learning Ritter might be in the area, according to sheriff’s Lt. John Molinari.

But Ritter was actually hiding near the amphitheater and tennis court area, where he eventually emerged with his hands up and surrendered, Molinari said.

“The good news is they got him,” said Monte Rio Fire Chief Steve Baxman, who responded to the fatal crash. Baxman said he saw Ritter surrendering Tuesday. “Now they can figure out if he was driving the car and all that stuff … You’ve got to have closure on these things. I just feel so bad for the family - a guy is out there riding his bike and he gets killed. That’s not right.”

On Sunday at about 8:45 a.m., Patti, of Berkeley, was stopped on the wide shoulder of a Highway 116 curve when he was struck by a westbound black BMW that drove away afterward, according to the CHP.

Witnesses told officers that Patti, who had apparently been riding alone, was about 20 feet away from the roadway’s edge, looking at his phone, when the BMW driver apparently lost control and slid into him. Following the crash, witnesses told authorities the driver continued west before doubling back east and driving past the crash.

Skid marks showed the driver was moving “at a pretty good rate of speed” at the time of the crash, and the fact the car traveled that far into the shoulder indicated reckless driving, CHP Officer Jon Sloat said earlier this week.

You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337 or jd.morris@pressdemocrat.com.

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