Cyclist suffers major injuries in vehicle collision, suspects flee on foot

Image 1 of 3

An SUV trying to avoid a traffic stop mowed down a bicyclist in downtown Palo Alto Friday afternoon, and triggered a lengthy search for the suspects.

It happened at Homer and Emerson Streets, not far from the police station.

Palo Alto Police say they were not chasing the vehicle; their officer had barely made contact when the driver took off and turned the wrong way down a one-way street.

He hit the woman in the intersection and dragged her about thirty feet.

She was rushed to the hospital with major injuries.

"Fortunately we've just found out the bicyclist will survive which we are very thankful for," police spokeswoman Agent Marianna Villaescusa told KTVU, later in the evening.

The driver and four passengers drove a short distance after the collision, then abandoned the Volkswagon Touareg on the street.

All of the occupants ran, and the neighborhood was soon flooded with officers from allied agencies as a perimeter was established and a search launched.

"I saw some helicopters buzzing around and looking for people, " resident Gayle McDowell told KTVU, "and we heard there was a bicyclist hit and badly injured, and they want to catch the people."

Two men were found and arrested swiftly. After a two hour manhunt, door to door, block by block, a police dog found a man and two women hiding in an unlocked backyard shed.

Investigators believe they have everyone involved in the hit and run.

They are reviewing charges, and investigating why the driver refused to pull over in the first place.

"Our officer tried to pull it over for a vehicle code violation, and when he turned on his lights, the vehicle sped away," recounted Agent Villaescusa.

"And as the patrol officer made that same turn, the suspect vehicle was no longer in sight, but he did see the bicyclist injured on the roadway." 

Officers canvassed homes and businesses for security cameras that might have captured the car hitting the bicyclist.

The officer didn't round the corner in time to actually see the crash, just the aftermath.

But he stopped to give aid, along with other passersby.

"Everybody rides their bike down here every day," observed resident Adam Witherspoon, pedaling by and pausing to watch the investigation.

"I ride my bike to work, and that's awful, yeah, scary."