By Larry Altman, September 26, 2013
Katharina Luna-Alvarez, center, a cousin of Manuel Ayala who died in a
Wilmington hit-and-run on Sept. 16, 2013, is comforted. Friends and
family gathered Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013 as L.A. Councilman Joe Buscaino
held a press conference to announce legislation to combat hit-and-run
Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino said Thursday he will propose a
standing $50,000 reward for information that helps LAPD officers find
the “cowardly” motorists who strike and kill innocent people on the
city’s streets and speed away.
Flanked by family members of
26-year-old Manuel Ayala, who was fatally injured on a Wilmington street
last week, Buscaino said he also wants California Gov. Jerry Brown to
sign a bill that would double the statute of limitations on hit-and-run
crimes from three to six years, and urged state legislators to increase
the penalties stemming from hit-and-run deaths, raising them to the same
level as alcohol-related fatalities.
The bill, AB 184, authored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Burbank,
was approved by the state Legislature earlier this month and sent to the
governor on Sept. 19, the same day the San Pedro father was removed
from life-support machines.
“I don’t want to live in a city where
we allow 30 people to be killed every year by someone who leaves the
scene of a crime without any consequence,” Buscaino told reporters on
Pacific Coast Highway near Wilmington Boulevard. “It’s a cowardly act
and we will not put up with it in the city of Los Angeles.”
The proposed standing reward will be introduced Friday at the Los Angeles City Council meeting.
Ayala, a young father of a 4-year-old daughter, was struck Sept. 16
as he crossed Pacific Coast Highway in midstreet about 7:50 p.m. As he
walked north, a gray Toyota sedan going west hit him.
“I never expected I would have to bury my own son,” said his mother, Laura Schumann.
who lived with his girlfriend, Mayra Duenas, and daughter, died while
making his way toward Placentia to visit his grandmother and mother.
Without his own car, Ayala rode the bus and possibly stopped in
Wilmington to say hello to friends. When he did not show up in Orange
County, family members tried to find him but had no luck. They were
horrified to learn two days later that he was lying brain dead in a
South Bay hospital.
“Please help us find this killer that left my brother-in-law on
the floor,” Brenda Viveros said. “I can’t understand, I can’t wrap my
head around how somebody could just hit somebody, briefly look over, see
what damage they caused and just drive off.”
devastated his parents, his girlfriend of eight years, and other family
members and friends. A guitar player, he started music and computer
courses in San Pedro just two weeks before his death, hoping to one day
repair computers and create software. He enjoyed taking his daughter
fishing at Cabrillo Beach, his mother said.
Viveros described Ayala as “an angel sent from heaven.”
could you just leave him like that?” Viveros said to the unknown
driver. “You could have stopped. You could have got out. You could have
given comfort. You could have held his hand. But instead you decided to
Viveros urged the driver to come forward to give the family closure.
“How would you like it if somebody left your son on the floor just like a dog?” she said. “How would you like it?”
Angeles police Detective Sandra Smith said police obtained some
surveillance camera footage of the gray Toyota and believe it was driven
by a woman. The car is a two- or four-door sedan and likely has
front-end damage, especially to a fog light.
Had the driver stayed at the scene, she would not have been considered a criminal, Smith said.
who represents the Harbor Area, said he also will propose a separate
reward to help find the driver who struck Ayala. Los Angeles City
Council members propose rewards for homicides and other crimes in their
districts regularly, but Buscaino’s standing reward for hit-and-run
crimes would be different.
“It’s a sign to send a clear signal :
If you leave the scene of an accident, you are a coward, you are a
criminal and you will be treated as such,” Buscaino said.