Father Pronounced Brain-Dead After Being Hit by Tesla in Pico-Union; Police ID Person of Interest

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A father of four was pronounced brain-dead after being struck by a Tesla in a hit-and-run collision in Pico-Union last week, authorities said Wednesday.

Emilio Perez, 34, was walking in the area of Olympic Boulevard and Lake Street at 10:45 p.m. Nov. 21 when he was struck by a vehicle and thrown about 50 feet across the roadway, the Los Angeles Police Department said. He was taken to a hospital in critical condition and later pronounced brain-dead.

Emilio Perez, 34, is seen at the hospital after a Nov. 21, 2019, hit-and-run collision in Pico-Union. (Credit: Los Angeles Police Department)

Emilio Perez, 34, is seen at the hospital after a Nov. 21, 2019, hit-and-run collision in Pico-Union. (Credit: Los Angeles Police Department)

The driver fled the scene and did not render aid, LAPD Detective Moses Castillo said.

After authorities released surveillance video of the collision, a tipster led officers to a damaged white Tesla left covered up in the 1800 block of South Saint Andrews Place.

Video showed a woman covering the Tesla up and then leaving in another car.

Investigators found that the abandoned Tesla was a rental, and tracked it to a business that helped police identify 35-year-old Vanessa Gutierrez of L.A. as a person of interest in the case and also tied Destini Williams, another woman in her 30s, to the investigation, Castillo said.

Police believe at least one of the two women may have been in the car, and that the two were at a bar or restaurant somewhere in L.A. before the collision, according to the detective. Witnesses initially reported seeing a man and woman in the car when it struck Perez, police said.

A Tesla believed to be linked to a hit-and-run was recovered in Harvard Heights on Nov. 22, 2019. (Credit: KTLA)

A Tesla believed to be linked to a hit-and-run was recovered in Harvard Heights on Nov. 22, 2019. (Credit: KTLA)

The family of Perez, who police said was homeless, found out about what happened days later while watching the news.

The detective said the victim's young son was with his mom at a laundromat when he heard his father's name and saw the video of the collision on the television.

“I can’t even begin to imagine that— the young child sees his dad on TV in the manner that you see it on that graphic video," Castillo said.

The family searched local hospitals until finding Perez.

“A homeless person is still a person. It doesn’t make him any less than anybody else," the victim's wife said at the news conference. “I want justice, not just for him, but for his four children."

Emilio Perez, 34, is seen in photos displayed at an LAPD news conference on Nov. 27, 2019. (Credit: KTLA)

Emilio Perez, 34, is seen in photos displayed at an LAPD news conference on Nov. 27, 2019. (Credit: KTLA)

The mother called the driver remorseless for leaving her husband on the ground after the collision.

Police and family members pleaded with the driver to come forward.

“He deserves justice and so does his family," Castillo said.

Castillo told KTLA there have been 220 traffic fatalities in Los Angeles so far this year.

"Every time you get behind the wheel, you are getting behind a deadly weapon," the detective told drivers, urging them to drive safely.

 

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the timeframe within which 220 traffic fatalities had occurred within the city. The post has been updated.

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