SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA) — Marlen Benitez should not be in a hospital bed in critical condition at Loma Linda University Medical Center on a Friday night.
The wife and mother of four young children should be at home with her family, but on Tuesday she was the victim of a hit-and-run.
According to police, the driver slowed down in front of Benitez’s fruit stand and then stepped on the gas and intentionally ran her over in a San Bernardino parking lot.
Marlen’s brother-in-law Alejandro said Benitez wakes up at 5 a.m. every day, helps her children who are learning at home because of the pandemic and then goes to work under her colorful umbrella in the sun to keep a roof over their heads.
Alejandro said the family is praying that she pulls through and that the driver’s actions are not dismissed as an accident.
Police arrested 42-year-old Robert Spargo, of San Bernardino, the same day of the crash at a nearby gas station. Officers could be seen taking aerosol cans out of his car and said they believe he may have been huffing.
According to jail records, Spargo was booked on suspicion of attempted murder.
But Alejandro said the family believes the video paints the full picture and shows that it was a racially motivated attack, similar to another recent attack on a San Bernardino street vendor.
Police have not yet commented on whether they were investigating the hit-and-run as a potential hate crime.
And while the family waits patiently by Benitez’s bedside, they want Spargo to tell them why he ran down this hard-working mother.
A GoFundMe page has been created to help cover Benitez’s medical costs.