A driver who was possibly under the influence when he allegedly struck a bicyclist in Arleta, then left the victim to die on the street, was in custody on Thursday morning, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Officers had originally responded shortly after 2 a.m. to a report of a traffic collision near the intersection of Van Nuys Boulevard and Beachy Avenue, according to LAPD Capt. Rafael Ramirez of the department’s Valley Traffic Division.
Investigators learned that the driver was traveling eastbound on the wrong side of Van Nuys when he collided into three cars, Ramirez said. During the collision, the bicyclist — who was headed westbound — was also struck.
The bicyclist was pronounced dead at the scene.
Initially, the driver remained at scene, according to Ramirez. However, when the Los Angeles Fire Department arrived at the crash site, they observed an individual running from the scene.
A short time later, Ramirez said officers received a call of a hot prowl at a nearby residence, prompting an LAPD response. The individual was taken into custody, and investigator later determined that the subject was the same person who fled the scene of the collision.
“At this time, the suspect is facing – he failed to remain at scene, which is a hit-and-run,” Ramirez said.
Investigators were also looking into whether the individual was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time.
“We’ve identified possible evidence that he was under the influence. We haven’t determined what he was under the influence at this point,” Ramirez said.
Several hours later, LAPD Detective William Bustos later stated that investigators believed he was unpaired.
“To what level we don’t know,” he said. “We have our drug experts looking at him right now.”
He added that detectives suspected the driver was under the influence of marijuana at the time.
The name of the man in custody was not released. He has not been arrested, police said.
The victim has also not yet been identified by authorities, but family members identified him as Eric Garcia.
A woman who said she was the victim’s sister told KTLA her brother was out late collecting cans to be recycled, something he did on that street every night, when he was struck.
The scene of the fatal crash was near Arleta High School, and Ramirez indicated that the investigation — expected to last for several additional hours — may impact the north side of the school’s campus. The LAPD was working with the Los Angeles Unified School District police, he stated.
“What our immediate concern right now is that we’re right in front of Arleta High School, we do not want to expose the students coming over to the school to see the tragedy that has happened,” Bustos said.
The main entrance to the school was closed while the investigation continued, he said shortly after 7 a.m.
Van Nuys Boulevard has been shut down in both directions for several hours as a result of the collision.