LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — With just one day to go until New Year’s Eve, the Los Angeles Police Department held a news conference to talk about deadly traffic accidents — specifically hit-and-run collisions.
“The hit-and-runs involving fatalities are up this year,” Police Chief Michel Moore said. “And when we look at the increase over the last five years, the number of people lost to a fatal collision involving a hit-and-run is up 69%.”
According to Moore, more than 236 people were killed in traffic accidents in 2019, and he called on every driver in L.A. to exercise heightened awareness and responsibility in the event of an accident.
“The key for me for the hit-and-runs is that it’s an accident,” he said. “Don’t make it a crime.”
Viviana Martinez, the girlfriend of a man killed in a May hit-and-run, pleaded with drivers involved in accidents to remain at the scene.
“It’s important that you don’t drink and drive, and if you do cause an accident, just stay, because you don’t whose life you’re ending,” she said. “Along with us, they’ve lost their only two children. And there’s nothing that can give them back to us.”
Security video released by the LAPD captured that crash on tape. The clip showed a speeding pickup truck t-boning a Ford Fusion, killing Benigno, 25, and Jesse Felix-Zuniga, 19. At least three other cars were hit in the crash.
Officers also announced that they made an arrest in connection with a Thanksgiving hit-and-run that killed 62-year-old Jihad Muhammad. Security video from that accident showed three drivers striking Muhammad with their vehicles then driving away.
Yolanda Thompson, 57, of Los Angeles was booked and then released on bond Dec. 16 in connection with the accident. Police said the investigation has been presented to the district attorney’s office for consideration of criminal charges.
GF of one of two brothers killed may 5 when a speeding car t-boned tehirs and then kept going. Ben and Jessie Felix’s parents were also here.
Detectives said they would continue to work toward prosecuting those responsible for hit-and-run accidents into the new year, and asked that everyone work to decrease the number of traffic fatalities.