Police, Victim’s Widow Seek Help Finding Hit-and-Run Driver Who Killed Popular Redlands Crossing Guard

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A grief-stricken widow joined police on Tuesday with an emotional plea for help in finding a hit-and-run driver who killed a beloved elementary school crossing guard in Redlands nearly two months ago.

Leonard Gilberto Ortiz is seen in a photo posted to a GoFundMe page.
Leonard Gilberto Ortiz is seen in a photo posted to a GoFundMe page.

On the morning of Oct. 16, 48-year-old Leonard Gilberto Ortiz was riding a moped-type scooter down Colton Avenue when a vehicle sped through a red light and struck him, leaving the crossing guard severely injured, according to the Redlands Police Department.

The driver continued on, failing to stop and render aid, as Ortiz went into full cardiac arrest, police said. Paramedics from the Redlands Fire Department treated him at the scene before transporting him to a local hospital.

He was pronounced dead at Loma Linda University Medical Center.

During a news conference Tuesday morning, authorities played the latest surveillance video and announced the reward amount had doubled, from $5,000 to $10,000, for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

“We’re confident someone in the community has the information needed to solve this case, and we’re asking them to come forward," said Redlands Police Department Chief Christopher R. Catren.

He provided an updated a description of the vehicle police are looking for, a dark green early 2000s Ford Ranger pickup truck with a shell covering the bed of the truck. The vehicle possibly has damage to the front passenger side.

The victim's widow also spoke at the news covering, choking up as she pleaded for the public to help lead investigators to the driver's capture.

“My husband was my world. We did everything together, and that person took him away from me,” Tracy Ortiz said, breaking down in tears. “Somebody knows. Somebody knows. Please, please just -- just turn him in. Turn whoever in … Turn him in, please, for his family. For me.”

The man Tracy Ortiz affectionately called "Bams" also left behind children and grandchildren.

“He loved his children and his grandchildren," she said. “Everybody loved my husband."

After his death, tributes for the crossing guard flooded a GoFundMe page, with dozens leaving heartfelt messages and expressing their condolences. Many remarked on his kindness, a smile that was described as "infectious," and his well-known greeting -- a wave -- to passersby.

Police had hoped previous surveillance videos, some released just one day after the fatal incident, would lead to a break in the case. But despite the footage, investigators have thus far been unable to identify a suspect.

Anyone with information is urged to call Redlands police at 909 335-4794.

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