COMMERCE ( — Deputies are investigating a fatal hit-and-run accident that took place in an area known for street racing.

The accident happened at the intersection of Randolph Street and Eastern Avenue in Commerce around 11 p.m. Thursday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

According to deputies, 19-year-old Jose Mendoza signaled the start of the race and was standing in the middle of the street when he was hit at a high rate of speed. His friends insist he was just a spectator and that he had nothing to do with starting the race.

Mendoza, of Bell Gardens, was pronounced dead on the scene.

Authorities say the suspected vehicle is a dark-colored large vehicle with heavy front-end damage-possible. Friends said it was a Toyota Tacoma truck that was driving about 80 mph with its lights off.

The accident is under investigation. Detectives believe street racing may led to the accident, because the street is a frequent location for illegal street races, KNX 1070’s John Brooks reports.

Friday evening, CBS2 and KCAL9 reporter Amanda Burden attended a somber memorial service in Mendoza’s honor.

She spoke to his friends who recall the Bell Gardens teen for his passion for cars, friends and fun.

Jose Godinez said, “My friend was one of a kind. He didn’t deserve to die like this.” He added, “To see a friend bleed to death, it’s hard you know.”

Sgt. Dave Holwager of the LA County Sheriff’s Department said the stretch of road is a likely candidate for racing. “It’s probably because you have a large industrial area with few residents and large stretches of road that stretches a little more than a mile long with no traffic controls or intersections.”

Anyone with information should call the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department or Crimestoppers at 1 (800) 222-TIPS.


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