SPRING VALLEY, Calif. — A 20-year-old man walking home from work on a sidewalk in Spring Valley was struck and killed by a SUV Sunday, but the fleeing driver left behind a license plate that led to his arrest, a CHP officer said.
Jason Michael Palmer, 33, of Spring Valley, was arrested on suspicion of felony hit and run and felony manslaughter in connection with the fatal crash, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Pearlstein.
Alcohol and/or drugs appeared to have been a factor in the crash, the officer added.
Palmer was on probation and had an extensive criminal history, including a drunken driving conviction 13 years ago, CBS8 reported.
Palmer allegedly veered a borrowed 2008 Toyota 4Runner onto the sidewalk and over the pedestrian as the man was walking on the north side of Campo Road near North Cordoba Avenue around 3:45 a.m, then sped away, Pearlstein said.
However, the SUV’s front license plate was left behind, near the body, according to the officer.
California Highway Patrol officers and fire personnel confirmed the pedestrian’s death “due to obvious fatal injuries,” the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office reported. His name was withheld pending family notification.
Investigators traced the suspect vehicle’s license plate to one of Palmer’s relatives, Pearlstein said.
Officers tried to call Palmer, but he hung up, the CHP officer said.
The 4Runner turned up around 9:30 a.m., parked near Interstate 805 and Aero Drive, Pearlstein said. The blue SUV was found with a broken windshield and a crumpled front end, CBS8 reported.
“If you’ve ever seen a vehicle versus pedestrian (crash) at a high speed, it’s a pretty violent impact,” Pearlstein told reporters. “A 150-160 pound pedestrian can do a lot of damage.”
As officers were processing the SUV for evidence, Palmer was spotted in a passing vehicle, which drive off.
Officers located him a short time later by “pinging” his cell phone, Pearlstein said.
Palmer was arrested without further incident and the damaged 4Runner’s keys were found in his pocket, the officer said.
Palmer was booked for suspicion of felony manslaughter and hit and run, and additional charges could be added at the conclusion of the investigation, Pearlstein said. Nearby businesses were being checked for relevant surveillance footage, he said.
Campo Road was closed between North Granada and North Cordoba avenues following the crash, but was reopened by late afternoon, according to the county Department of Public Works.