LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Police released video Thursday evening of the vehicle they believe was involved in a deadly hit-and-run in Echo Park that prompted the victim’s loved one to send an emotional message to the suspect.
“I just want to beg the person to come to the police,” America Martinez, the victim’s ex-wife, said. “My ex-husband was a very good person.”
Martinez said her ex-husband, 60-year-old Jose Mario Vaquiero, died while trying to get to work.
Police said that just before 5:30 a.m., Vaquiero was fatally struck by a car as he ran across the street against a red light to catch a bus in the 1300 block of Sunset Boulevard, near Douglas Street. The driver didn’t stop to help.
“Every morning, he crossed Sunset Boulevard to catch the bus,” Martinez said. “Today was the last one.”
Witnesses told police they did not see the collision, but heard a loud noise and saw the man’s body flying in the air. Vaquero landed in the middle of street, where he was pronounced dead.
Police said they are searching for a dark-colored Honda or Hyundai with significant front-end damage and a missing left bumper, which was recovered at the scene. The vehicle was last seen going east on Sunset Boulevard.
LAPD Detective Moses Castillo said because Vaquero had crossed the street against a red light, the crash could have been investigated as a traffic collision.
“Had that person stayed at the scene and cooperated with the investigation, this would be a traffic collision, that’s it,” he said. “But the mere fact this person fled the scene, that’s where a felony crime comes into play. Now that person faces some serious legal consequences.”
Investigators are reviewing footage from a MTA bus that was in the area at the time of the crash as well as video from nearby businesses. Castillo said fatal hit-and-run accidents, like the one that killed Vaquero, are a growing problem.
“The last three years, we’ve been averaging over 20,000 hit-and-runs citywide each year. It’s out of control,” he said. “We need people to stop, do the right thing, and just comply with the law.”
Officers with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Central Traffic Division have asked that anyone with information come forward. There is a reward of up to $50,000 for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.