The pedestrian killed in a hit-and-run collision in Willow Creek on Saturday has been identified as 22-year-old Manuel Alejandro Garcia.
Humboldt County Deputy Coroner Roy Horton said Garcia appeared to have been walking on the shoulder of the westbound lane of State Route 299, where it makes a sweeping left-hand turn in front of Buddy’s Auto Center, when he was hit. Horton said Garcia lived close by, with his mother and brother, and appears to have been out walking his dog.
“I found a dog leash and chain at the scene,” Horton said, adding that the dog returned to Garcia’s home after the accident, which occurred at about 10 p.m. Saturday.
The California Highway Patrol responded to a call reporting the accident and found Garcia dead, but the driver had fled the scene. A short time later, officers found a car believed to have been involved in the accident parked behind Ray’s Market in Willow Creek. With the help of a dog from the Arcata Police Department, officers spent four hours searching the scene but were unable to locate the driver.
California Highway Patrol officer Michael Berry said officers used the vehicle’s registration information to track down its suspected driver, Daniel Roy Jones, 36, of Arcata, who was arrested at his home without incident at about 11:30 Sunday morning and booked into jail on suspicion of driving under the influence, hit and run, manslaughter and delaying or obstructing an officer.
Horton said Garcia was found without any identification, appearing to have just left the house to take his dog for a quick walk, and was logged as a John Doe. Sunday morning, Horton said Garcia’s mother approached a CHP information booth at Redwood Acres Fair and spoke with an officer, saying her son hadn’t come home Saturday night and she was worried about him. The officer then notified Horton. “That’s how we identified him,” Horton said, adding that Garcia’s family was crushed by the news. “They’re just beside themselves.”
Horton said Garcia appears to have died of blunt force trauma, but said a full autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday, at which point a forensic pathologist will conduct a toxicology test and compare Garcia’s injuries to the damage found on Jones’ vehicle. Meanwhile, the CHP investigation is ongoing and the agency asks that anyone with information about the collision call 268-2000.