February 12, 2014

Atwater police release photos in hit-and-run; family offers reward

Atwater police are seeking the public’s help to identify the driver of a vehicle that struck a 59-year-old man twice and left the scene. The victim’s family has offered a cash reward for anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the driver.

Atwater police on Wednesday released a series of surveillance photographs in connection with a hit-and-run incident last month that sent a 59-year-old man to the hospital.

John Tolentino suffered 26 broken bones in his left foot Jan. 25 when he was struck by a car that then backed up and struck him a second time before leaving the parking lot of the Royal Crown mini-mart at 2689 N. Buhach Rd. in Atwater.

Doctors told him they’re not sure they’ll be able to save his foot, Tolentino said. He and his wife, Patricia, both suffer from cancer, which makes him a poor candidate for surgery.

“It’s just killing me, I’m in so much pain and I’m the only driver and my wife and I have to pay someone to drive us around,” Tolentino said Wednesday.

Tolentino’s family is now offering a $500 reward for anyone who provides information to police leading to the arrest and conviction of the woman who was driving the white Honda coupe.

The victim initially believed the vehicle was black, but witnesses and surveillance footage confirmed the suspect vehicle was white, Detective Anthony Cardoza said.

Tolentino was going to pay a bill when the vehicle struck him in the parking lot. Surveillance footage shows the vehicle strike Tolentino, stop, and then back up over his left leg and before stopping again. Three people are seen running to help the victim before the suspect vehicle drives away, Cardoza said.

Witnesses initially told police there were multiple people in the suspect’s vehicle, including children. “But the surveillance shows three people who appear to be all adults,” Cardoza said.

Officers released three images Wednesday, including one showing the moment Tolentino was first struck.

Another image shows a woman at a gasoline pump wearing a dark blue or black football-style jersey. Police said the woman pictured is the driver of the suspect vehicle.

The third image shows a woman at the store counter inside the mini-mart. She is believed to have been the front passenger in the suspect vehicle, police said.

For Tolentino and his wife, the physical pain feels magnified by the frustration and anger that the driver caused the crash and has refused to take responsibility.

“We want some justice, someone to pay for what happened to my husband,” Patricia Tolentino said.

The Tolentinos are not only dealing with significant health issues: They are also helping raise their 3-year-old grandson, who lives in their home.

“Drivers should stop and help when something like this happens,” John Tolentino said. “They only make it worse for everybody, including themselves, when they just leave.”

Police are asking anyone with information about the incident or who may be able to identify the driver or passengers in the vehicle to contact investigators at (209) 357-6396. Callers may remain anonymous.

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