OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Though neighbors near Garfield Park have been complaining for years about what they have described as a dangerous – and now deadly – intersection, the spot has never been on Oakland’s improvement list.
“This intersection did not have any crash history,” Oakland Department of Transportation Director Ryan Russo said on Monday, adding that 26th Avenue and Foothill Boulevard wasn’t in the city’s queue for road improvements.
That intersection was the site of a fatal hit-and-run on Saturday about 7:30 p.m. That’s when Alma Vasquez, 30, her 6-year-old son Angel Garcia, and Angel’s 20-year-old uncle, Jaime, were walking in the crosswalk to the laundromat across the street.
Witnesses told police the family was struck by a driver in a black Mercedes, who fled the scene. Police on Monday identified him as 27-year-old Rasenoch Allen and they offered a $25,000 reward leading to information leading to his arrest and his conviction.
Mother and son died later at the hospital. The uncle was taken to the hospital in critical condition.
Court records show that Allen served prison time for his role in a 2016 Oakland fatal shooting and was free on bail for a July 2018 arrest in Humboldt County where he is being prosecuted for conspiracy to commit a crime, the East Bay Times reported.
Russo and City Councilman Noel Gallo held a news conference on Monday to answer questions and update the grieving community about the traffic concerns in that neighborhood.
Gallo said that nearby streets and sidewalks should be getting repaved this spring and summer, and traffic medians should also be coming.
But residents have long been asking for a stop light, they said, which is not immediately on any city transportation improvement list despite their complaints over the years.
Gallo said his office is willing to fund a flashing-light crosswalk for the intersection immediately, and Russo said his office needs to review the police report and speak more in-depth with residents before issuing a green light for a stop light.
"The sad reality is, whatever we do here will be too late for this family," Russo said.
Russo and Gallo both acknowledged that improvements and changes might happen much faster now because of this double tragedy; mother and son are two of about 30 pedestrian deaths each year.
“Our condolences go out to the family for this unspeakable tragedy,” Russo said. “Government’s first job is to keep people safe and obviously that didn't happen here.”
Angel was a kindergartener at the International Community School in East Oakland. His principal, Eleanor Alderman, called him sweet and smiley. She came to the site of the accident to demand a stop light, along with dozens of other community members.
“He was full of joy,” she said, adding that the family has already had its share of troubles. A couple of years ago, their home burned down, when Angel's older brother was in third grade.
“They were just trying to get to the laundromat,” she said. “It’s a disgrace.”
Despite the city not having any crash history at this exact spot, Alderman said that she knows that residents have been complaining about speeding, accidents and even sideshows in this neighborhood for years.
“It’s really unfortunate that it takes a tragedy to bring attention to an issue that it sounds like families and neighbors have been pushing on for years in this area,” Alderman said. “People have been hit, but not killed before now. It’s really hard to understand why nothing has happened. From 28th to Garfield, there is not one stop lights. It’s a complete death trap.”
IF YOU'RE INTERESTED: A GoFundMe has been set up for the Garcia-Vasquez family to pay for the funerals. Anyone with information about Rasenoch Allen is asked to contact the Oakland Police Department’s Traffic Investigation Unit at (510)777-8540 and or Crime Stoppers of Oakland at (510)777-8572.