Hunt on for California driver who killed teen while fleeing police

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 13, 2014 3:55 PM

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) - Police in Northern California have recovered a car they believe struck and killed a 14-year-old boy at a crosswalk during a police chase this week, but were still searching for the driver, authorities said on Thursday.

Teenager Ivan Cruz had been holding a scooter and crossing the street with friends in the San Francisco Bay area town of Ashland when he was struck on Tuesday, said Alameda County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sergeant J.D. Nelson.

Moments earlier, a sheriff's deputy had tried to pull over the motorist for driving erratically, but the driver sped away and entered an oncoming lane of traffic, Nelson said. The sheriff's deputy gave up the chase for safety reasons, but Cruz was struck seconds later nevertheless.

"People are devastated," Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan said. "I was really sad, and I did call the sheriff right away to find out whether every protocol was followed."

Two sheriff's deputies again gave chase to the motorist after Cruz was struck, but the driver got away, Nelson said. An ambulance took Cruz to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The California Highway Patrol on Wednesday found what is believed to be the suspect's car in Fremont, a city about 12 miles southeast of Ashland, Nelson said. It had damage consistent with hitting a pedestrian, he said.

Investigators are going over witness leads and store surveillance video from the street where the crash occurred to track down the driver, said Nelson, who added that he did not have information on how fast the suspect's car was traveling when he hit Cruz.

A spokesman for the California Highway Patrol, which is investigating the incident, could not be reached for comment.

The Alameda County Sheriff's Office allows a pursuing deputy or the deputy's supervisors to call off a pursuit to avoid harming a member of the public, Nelson said.

"He (the deputy) did cancel it, unfortunately it didn't matter, and quite honestly it's my experience these kinds of things are on the increase where criminals know that the worse you drive ... that police will stop chasing you," Nelson said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Eric Walsh)