AMERICAN CANYON, Calif. (KTVU) - Community involvement helped crack a hit and run in the North Bay, just hours after it happened.
55 year old Jaime Rodriguez Zuniga of American Canyon was struck and seriously injured Thursday morning crossing Highway 29. Police say a teenage driver ran a red light and plowed into Zuniga at about 50 mph.
"It's not right, it's not correct," said Zuniga's nephew Oscar Hernandez Zuniga, upset that his uncle might have died in the crosswalk.
The man was airlifted to U.C. Davis Medical Center with broken bones in his legs and arms, and a fractured pelvis. The alleged diver, Martha Morales Barrera, 19, of American Canyon, turned herself in about 4 p.m.
"We had a lot of eyes and ears helping us out and we were able to get a description out pretty quickly," said American Canyon Police Chief Oscar Ortiz.
Zuniga was hit at about 8-30 am when there was heavy commute traffic and many witnesses.
Not only did people stop to help the injured man, some drivers tried to follow the hit and run car afterward.
Using their descriptions and surveillance footage, police were able to publicize two photos of the white Acura involved in the crash. Witnesses told police a young woman was at the wheel and had two young men in the car, and that it appeared they were well aware what had happened.
"The male passenger in the rear seat is described as looking back after the impact as the car took off," said Chief Ortiz.
Rodriguez Zuniga was walking from the Rio del Mar neighborhood west of Highway 29 to the shopping center on the opposite side. It was his daily habit to head to Starbucks.
"Often times we see him there, he's very friendly, talks to our officers and drinks coffee with them, he has his morning routine cup of coffee," said Chief Ortiz.
Zuniga's nephew said his uncle is very friendly and social, and enjoys his daily meet-up for coffee.
He remembers being at the crosswalk Thursday morning, but nothing after that. At the hospital, surrounded by family, Jaime Zuniga has been alert and talking, although medicated for pain.
He will undergo multiple major surgeries on Friday.
"He says 'thank you, I love you' to us," said Oscar, "and we say 'we love you too, we will soon get you home.'"
By late afternoon, a phone tip led to the suspect's car parked in a neighborhood just two miles from the accident. As it was being towed away, it's windshield shattered by impact, Morales Barrera was surrendering at Napa Police Headquarters.
"We understand sometimes drivers panic, they don't know how to react," acknowledged Chief Ortiz, "but the consequences increase tenfold when you leave the scene, it's really inexcusable."
Barrera told police she "freaked out" after the accident but was overcome with guilt later, and turned herself in. American Canyon's chief says residents value their relationships and routines, and he's grateful to those who got involved in the case.
"Something like this happens, and our community is quick to help with descriptions and tips, it really is a partnership and it's a great relationship," said Ortiz.
Morales Barrera is being held for felony hit and run with bail set at $50,000.