(KTLA) – Authorities on Thursday announced a $50,000 reward to find the hit-and-run driver who killed a father as he was crossing the street with his family in South Los Angeles.
The collision happened around 7:15 p.m. on Feb. 26 as the family of three was walking in a marked crosswalk to get to church.
Cars were stopped to let the family pass when an “impatient” driver went around traffic from the northbound lanes to the southbound lanes at a high speed, Los Angeles police Capt. Jay Hom said.
The father, 42-year-old Jemmy Chavarria, quickly pushed his wife and 2-year-old son out of the way before he was struck by the vehicle, bearing the brunt of the impact.
“In his true last moments, an amazing act of heroism,” LAPD Detective Ryan Moreno said. “He actually had the presence of mind to actually shove his wife out of harm’s way as best he could and … get his son out of the way by tossing him back over towards the sidewalk area.”
The driver fled the scene, leaving the victim in the street.
The family was taken to a local hospital, where the father died of his injuries.
“My life completely changed due to a reckless driver,” the victim’s wife, Angelica Chavarria, told reporters at a news conference Thursday.
“Before being struck at a high speed, my husband was able to show my son and I his unconditional love,” Chavarria said through tears. “He saved our lives.”
Police found surveillance video of the suspect’s vehicle, which was described as a light-colored grey or gold sedan, possibly a Nissan Altima. The vehicle was missing its right front hubcap at the time of the collision.
No description of the driver was available, and it’s unclear whether there was anyone else in the car that day.
Police said that on the day of the crash, the family was guided to cross the street by a crossing guard from the church who was wearing a bright yellow vest and carrying a stop sign. There were also bright yellow lights flashing.
“Our community, this church and the Chavarria family lost a super dad, taken from us by a careless, reckless and criminal driver who disregarded all of the measures to keep people safe,” Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said.
Moreno said it’s possible but unknown whether drugs or alcohol played a role in the collision.
A reward of up to $50,000 is available to community members who provide information leading to the driver’s identification, arrest and conviction.
The victim’s wife urged anyone with information to come forward.
“If you saw the car or know the person who killed my husband, please call the police,” she said. “If you’re watching, and you’re responsible, turn yourself in.”
Officials say the street has been the site of many incidents lately, with double the number of traffic collisions occurring in the area since the onset of the pandemic.
While KTLA was reporting this story from the scene, a collision took place at the same crosswalk and was captured on camera. One of the vehicles appeared to flee the scene.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Moreno at 323-421-2500.