Tribal elder from Lemoore killed in hit-run

FRESNO, Calif.

The CHP is looking for whoever is responsible for this hit and run. A memorial has been set up near the place where 75-year-old William Vega died. People here on the reservation say they miss him terribly. And want answers to how he died.

Katheen Monzon said, "This is someone who we knew someone we loved and he's going to be very very missed and it's just sad that these people can't come forward and say what they did."

Fellow tribal members created a memorial filled with burning sage and flowers in William Vega's honor. The California Highway Patrol says the 75-year-old tribal member of the Santa Rosa Rancheria in Lemoore ... was struck and killed by a car driving northbound on 17th Avenue Wednesday night. They don't know the exact time Vega was hit.

Jerry Pierce with the California Highway Patrol adds, "We suspect there's a vehicle involved to what extent we don't know there's a lot of unanswered questions at this time."

The CHP is investigating whether William Vega was hit deliberately or by accident. Officers say a man driving by the scene saw Vega dead in the middle of the road and called 9-1-1. He said several were continuing to drive around his body. People who live on the reservation are upset by how Vega's body was left on the road.

Tambra Berna said, "We know it was dark there but to be left there that's just ... it just really hurts that someone left him there like a dog or a piece of trash and he wasn't either of those."

Berna says Vega often took walks from the elder center which is near where he lived ... down 17th Avenue to visit neighborhood friends. "He was a really kind guy really sweet and a lot of times he had a lot of things to say."

17th Avenue is behind the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino. The speed limit is 25 miles per hour but Monzon, who lives on this street, says many people drive much faster than that. "He lost his life to a car we never thought he was going to go that way and you don't know and then so close to home."

The CHP is hoping to talk to the person driving a black SUV in the area Wednesday night. The person is not a suspect, but is believed to be a witness to the accident. If you have any information about this hit and run you're asked to call the Hanford office of the CHP.

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