SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — Authorities on Friday said a popular teacher struck last week in a hit-and-run accident in Santa Ana has been declared brain dead.
Chris Chavez, 26, who taught drums at Saddleback High School — the same school he graduated from — was struck by a BMW about 2:15 a.m. April 20 at Bristol Street and Central Avenue, according to Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
Witnesses said the female driver ran a light and hit Chavez as he was walking in the crosswalk on his way into a Denny;s. The driver got out of the vehicle but then got back in and sped off.
A Good Samaritan tried to follow the suspect but lost her when she turned east on Warner Avenue.
Another witness ran to get help for Chavez from a nearby hospital, police said.
“The impact was significant and we do believe that the BMW has significant windshield damage and front end damage,” Santa Ana Police Chief
Carlos Rojas said.
The suspect is 20 to 30 years old and is about 5 feet 5 inches tall with a medium build and brown hair. She was wearing a black shirt and blue jeans, Bertagna
City officials put up a $10,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the suspect, and the victim’s family matched it, making the reward $20,000.
“Our family is broken,” Chavez’s father, Ralph, said. “We have a lot of healing to do and my focus is for that. We pray for the woman, that she just do the right thing.”
Family members planned to hold a vigil at Saddleback High at 3:30 Friday afternoon. Another vigil is planned for 7 p.m. at the crash site.
KCAL9’s Stacey Butler attended the emotional night vigil where dozens of Chavez’s loved ones said that even in death he would be helping others — just like he did so often in life.
“Incredible heartache,” says best friend Alva Castro, “He was an amazing person.”
The family spend the past 10 days praying for a miracle recovery.
“We kept praying it would turn around,” said grandmother Chris Klehr.
His family will donate his organs and tissue. They said it would be in his nature to want to help others.
“We prayed for a miracle but it didn’t come,” said Ralph Chavez, “so we’d like to make a miracle for someone else.”
“If all of his organs are going to be transplanted,” said sister Rachel Chavez, “he can help up to eight people.”