19-year-old auto receptionist takes Smart car, arrested for hit-and-run of 3-year-old boy

Police have arrested a 19-year-old woman in the hit-and-run crash that critically injured a 3-year-old boy in Richmond, and it's not the car's registered owner.

Police say a teenage girl took the car out for a joyride from her workplace, and struck the child, who remains hospitalized in critical condition.

The boy's parents have kept his name private, but shared a photo of the dark-haired toddler.

A security camera captured a shot of the red Smart car that hit him Wednesday just before noon.
Thursday morning, police spotted the car and pulled it over.

"We learned the driver really didn't have a clue as to what occurred," Lt. Felix Tan told KTVU.

Investigators questioned the car owner, and he explained that his vehicle had been in an auto repair shop for maintenance all day Wednesday.

He picked it up that evening, with no idea anyone else had been driving it. 

"She's nineteen years old, and a San Pablo resident," elaborated Lt. Tan.

The young woman, allegedly behind the wheel, is an employee of Friends Auto Repair. 

"She is a receptionist at  the auto shop, and somehow she was able to obtain the customer's keys and drove the customer's car," said Tan.  

The distance between the shop and the accident is only a half mile, but police aren't sure how long the employee drove the car, or how far she went.

She did seem aware she'd hit the boy.  

"The vehicle stopped when it collided with the child, it stopped momentarily and then continued," described  Lt. Joey Schlemmer of Richmond police.

Had the driver stayed, police say, she would have been blameless, since the boy had darted away from his mother, and run into the street.

But leaving the accident scene makes it a crime.

"It's tragic when anyone is hit by a vehicle and most of the time it's an accident," observed Lt. Schlemmer, "and I just wish people would remember that and stay on scene."

Police suspect the receptionist panicked because she wasn't supposed to be in the car. But they haven't been able to get an explanation from her.

"Detectives tried to interview her, multiple times, and she's not cooperative," noted Lt. Tan.

Felony hit-and-run charges are expected to be filed Friday, at which time the woman's name will be revealed.
Tan says she doesn't appear to have been in any trouble with the law before.

The owner of the car is a middle-aged Richmond man, said to be shocked that his car was used for a joyride, and that it turned out so badly.

Front-end damage to the car was apparently minor enough that he didn't see it when he picked up the vehicle.

The car has been impounded temporarily as evidence.