The Los Angeles City Council today unanimously approved a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a driver who sped off after hitting a 22-year-old man who was getting into his car outside a Sherman Oaks eatery, causing fatal injuries.
Ernesto Melendez, 22, of Van Nuys was struck in the early morning hours of Aug. 18, just after he had retrieved his car from a parking attendant following a dinner date with his girlfriend, Los Angeles police Detective Bill Bustos said.
Standing beside a portrait of Melendez in a graduation cap, his sister said their family suffered a similar tragedy seven years ago when her mother was also killed in a traffic collision.
"Now, seven years later, I lose my brother -- my only brother," Patricia Lazalde said at a City Hall news conference.
When their mother died, "the only person I had was my brother," she said later in the council chamber, before the council voted 14-0 to approve the reward.
The person who hit their mother stopped to help, but the person who hit her brother "didn't even bother to stop," she said.
Bustos said the driver was behind the wheel of a gray 2010-13 Hyundai Tucson crossover, with possible damage to the front of the vehicle, including the hood and windshield.
"The right mirror should be missing," he said.
The Tucson was being driven westbound on Ventura Boulevard near Kester Avenue about 1:45 a.m. when it struck the open driver's side door of Melendez's Ford Focus, according to Councilman Tom LaBonge, who introduced the reward motion.
The 21-year-old parking attendant who was standing next to Melendez escaped injury, but he suffered brain injuries and died 15 hours later at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
The Hyundai driver continued westbound, striking an unoccupied BMW while fleeing, police said.
Anyone with information on the driver's identity or whereabouts is urged to call the Los Angeles Police Department's Valley Traffic Division at (818) 644-8000. Anonymous tips can be made at 877-LAPD-247.—from City New Service reports