Fresno family pleading for help finding hit-and-run driver that killed elderly Army veteran

FRESNO, Calif; (KFSN) -- Family members identify the victim in a deadly hit-and-run crash as Army Veteran Jose Rodriguez, 83. The family and Fresno police are hoping the driver turns himself in. Investigators say speed is a definite factor.

Rodriguez was killed while crossing the street on his motorized scooter late Monday morning. Late Monday evening the family invited Action News to their candle-light vigil. They want the driver to see the pain caused by the deadly collision.

Witnesses and police say the driver of the white pick-up truck that struck Rodriguez never even stopped at the scene.

"He wasn't just another person on a wheelchair, crossing the street, he was someone's grandpa, someone's friend, someone's friend," said the victim's granddaughter Francisca Rodriguez. "And most importantly to us, he was our tata. Our tata meant everything to us."

Desperate to know why the driver left, this family is now pleading he turn himself into Fresno police. Rodriguez was killed on a busy stretch of Cedar Avenue at Floradora in Central Fresno in front of several stunned witnesses.

"He was a good man," said a neighbor. "I talked to him before. It's just sad to see it happened like this."

Fresno police say the driver of a white Chevy or Dodge extended cab pick-up truck was speeding when he struck Rodriguez. The impact was so strong it crushed his wheelchair, and sent him flying in the opposite direction.

Neighbors say the street is dangerous. Once police cleared the scene people like Fabian Vera were back to crossing in the middle of the street. They say around there it's the only option.

"There's nowhere to cross," Vera said. "I got to walk a quarter mile this way, or quarter mile down to Olive. It's a shame. It's really sad what happened to the elderly man today."

Police aren't yet sure if that truck was racing or either trying to pass or being passed by a dark gray Acura sedan.

"Our grandpa wasn't someone you can just run over and take off," Rodriguez said. "He was a human being. He was loved by so many people. He deserves more than to just be left behind."

The Rodriguez family is leaving a memorial at the scene to remember the patriarch of their family, and they say to remind that driver of the life taken in the middle of a crowded street.

The truck will have front end damage, police say. Detectives are reviewing video from the policing cameras in the area before releasing the images to the public.

Copyright © 2019 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.