Vargas: Hit-and-run drivers are among the worst, as fatal Santa Ana incident shows


There’s a woman walking free today who really needs to go to jail. The motorist hit a man walking across the street. She then got out of her car, looked at him, and then got back in and drove off.

She just left him in the street. She didn’t render any aid. She didn’t call for help.

Leaving a person to die in the street is something people with a conscience don’t do. In my opinion, that makes her as bad as some of the worst criminals out there.

The victim, Chris Chavez, was walking across Bristol Street in Santa Ana early Wednesday — he was on his way to Denny’s to grab a bite to eat — when he was struck by a vehicle police say ran a red light. The female driver of a black BMW got out of her vehicle and saw the injured Mr. Chavez in the street.

Several good Samaritans stopped to render aid.

After looking at the helpless Mr. Chavez lying in the middle of Bristol Street, desperately in need of medical aid, the unidentified female driver got back into her vehicle and fled.

What kind of a person does that?

On Friday, April 29, the Santa Ana PD announced a $20,000 reward to the person who can ID the driver.

Also Friday, it was announced that Chavez, 26, of Santa Ana, died.

Let’s face it: The majority of hit-and-run drivers don’t cause people significant harm. They damage property and then. for all sorts of reasons, decide to flee.

Sometimes they flee because they are wanted on other charges. Other times they know they have been drinking and will probably be arrested. Then again, they might be unlicensed drivers.

I’ve also known hit-and-run drivers to flee simply to avoid personal responsibility — probably something they’ve avoided their entire lives.

Take, for example, the case of Daniella Palacios. She was a mother of eight children who was riding her bike in Anaheim in November 2014 when she was hit by a pickup truck driven by Junior Rigoberto Lopez.

Lopez fled the scene, leaving Mr. Palacios lying in the middle of the street.

The suspect. Courtesy of SAPD.

There is a $20,000 reward for someone who can lead police to the suspect. Courtesy of the SAPD.

Lopez drove to Mexico where he had the truck fixed, but thanks to some assistance from the public and great work by Anaheim PD investigators, he was arrested and sentenced to four years in prison.

The judge described Mr. Lopez’s behavior as “outrageous and nearly unforgivable.” Four years really doesn’t seem like a significant consequence for killing someone.

There has to be something really wrong with the moral compass of people who can hurt another person and then just leave.

In the case of Mr. Chavez, the female driver actually looked him in the face, saw him critically injured, and then just left.

Lucky for Mr. Chavez, there were people who did stop and render aid and block the street. One person even got a picture of the female driver and tried to chase her down after she fled.

The good thing is Santa Ana PD has something to work with. In many hit-and-run cases, there’s little to go on.

And in many such cases, there isn’t much to follow up on, either. In this case, SAPD investigators have a picture of the suspect. They also have a picture of a black BMW with paper plates.

Someone out there knows this driver. Someone out there knows this vehicle. It will have damage. Now that someone just needs to call the Santa Ana PD and let justice run its course. Even if you don’t know the suspect or the vehicle, simply sharing this posting can help.

I’m sure the family of Mr. Chavez would appreciate it, as would all law-abiding people.

The SAPD is asking anyone with information to call the police department’s traffic bureau at 714-245-8200. Anonymous tips also can be given to the Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS.