The Los Angeles Police Department on Monday urged a 21-year-old man accused of fatally striking a pedestrian in Van Nuys to come forward as authorities revealed he was allegedly engaged in illegal street racing.
Two white cars were speeding northbound down Sepulveda Boulevard around 10:30 p.m. Friday when one of them slammed into a pedestrian crossing eastbound on Sepulveda, just south of Hatteras Street , according to LAPD.
The victim, 22-year-old Neri Ramirez Chalo, appeared to see the cars just as he was crossing and started running. He managed to avoid the first sedan just before he was fatally struck by the second car going about 40 mph, LAPD Detective Josh Wade told reporters Monday.
The Van Nuys resident had gotten out of his vehicle parked on the west curb of Sepulveda just before getting hit as he crossed, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Roberto Ocampo of North Hills is believed to be the driver who hit Chalo before fleeing the area, according to police. The white Infiniti G37 he was driving was later discovered within the "vicinity" of the crash and had damage consistent with the collision, Wade said.
Investigators believe he was racing a white, newer-model sedan. But authorities are not sure who the other driver is, according to Wade. He said police do not have further details on that car.
Wade said police reviewed video from surveillance cameras in the area that shows the two cars street racing. He said the footage also helped officers track down the Infiniti.
Although Wade initially described Ocampo as a "person of interest," he later said authorities have been in touch with the 21-year-old's family — urging Ocampo's parents to get him to turn himself in as the driver.
"We do believe he was the driver of the vehicle at the time of the collision," Wade said, adding Ocampo is likely being helped by family or others in avoiding law enforcement.
"We want his side of the story. We want to know what his involvement was that night of the accident," Wade said. "The longer he takes to turn himself in, the more stresses he's putting on himself, the more stresses he's putting on this poor victim's family."
An LAPD news release states Ocampo is 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs about 160 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. Wade said he has several driving citations but no serious criminal history.
As with any hit-and-run in Los Angeles, a reward of up to $50,000 is being offered for tips leading to an arrest and conviction or other resolution in the case.
Anyone with information can reach Detective Wade at 818-644-8036. After normal business hours or on weekends, tipsters can call police at 877-527-3247. Those wishing to remain anonymous can reach L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477 or lacrimestoppers.org. Information can also be submitted anonymously by filling out this online form.