DNA evidence leads to arrest of suspected hit-and-run driver in downtown L.A. crash that killed cyclist

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These surveillance images showing a suspect in a fatal hit-and-run crash in downtown Los Angeles were released Jan. 16, 2021, by the L.A. Police Department.

These surveillance images showing a suspect in a fatal hit-and-run crash in downtown Los Angeles were released Jan. 16, 2021, by the L.A. Police Department.

DNA evidence left at the scene of a hit-and-run crash in downtown Los Angeles that killed a bicyclist has led to the suspected driver being charged with murder, police said Thursday.

Ronald Earl Kenebrew Jr., 36, was identified as the suspect in the collision that killed 46-year-old Branden Finley after detectives ran the evidence through the massive DNA database known as Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Branden Finley, 46, is seen in an undated photo provided by friends.
Branden Finley, 46, is seen in an undated photo provided by friends.

On Thursday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed three criminal counts against the Lancaster man including murder, carjacking and felony hit-and-run, police said. He was being held at Los Angeles County jail on $2.2 million bail.

LAPD investigators learned of the DNA evidence matching with Kenebrew on May 11, police said. The Lancaster man has been in the custody of Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials on suspicion of robbery since Feb. 11, nearly a month after the fatal crash.

Kenebrew was also linked to the crime after detectives identified him as the suspect in videos from the morning of the collision, when he allegedly stole a white 2010 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck in the 900 block of Wilshire Boulevard. Surveillance images were released by LAPD the day of the crash.

According to police, a man approached the owner of the truck and asked him for a ride, but the vehicle owner refused. The man then got inside the truck, locked himself in and sped off — doing so while the vehicle owner climbed onto the truck bed in an attempt to stop him, police said.

From there, the man behind the wheel of the truck drove onto Seventh Street. According to police, witnesses said he was weaving in and out of traffic, sometimes driving on the wrong side of the road. He was speeding when he slammed into a bicyclist upon approaching Olive Street, police said.

But he didn’t stop and instead fled, traveling eastbound on Seventh Street.

Friends of Finley have said he was riding his bicycle to meet friends at the time. They have described him as a “pure, genuine soul” and “the best of all of us.”

His 18-year-old daughter, Koi, pleaded for authorities to find his killer as she spoke to reporters a day after the tragic crash. “I’m not okay unless that killer is found,” she said.

“Please just find my dad’s killer, he deserves justice,” Koi said. “If you know this man, if you know this killer, if you hear anything, please report to the LAPD. We will not stop talking about this, we will not breathe, we will not eat, until my dad’s killer is found.”

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