Merced police on Thursday arrested a local resident in a May hit-and-run collision that took the life of a 68-year-old Catheys Valley man.
Sean Ryan Lambert-Diaz, 29, reportedly told authorities after the May 13 collision that he fled the scene on the direction of another individual who was robbing and kidnapping him, Sgt. Dan Dabney said.
“Based on surveillance video nearby and other modern technology, we were able to prove that nobody was in the vehicle with him,” Dabney said, noting it took several months for investigators to make the determination.
Joe Lang was in the area of R Street and Buena Vista Drive at about 2 a.m. when the 2009 Toyota Tacoma Lambert-Diaz was driving struck and killed him, police say.
Lambert-Diaz reportedly left before police arrived, and Lang was pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said.
The Merced resident was booked into a Merced County jail on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, and felony hit-and-run, according to jail records. He was being held Friday in lieu of $80,000 bond.
Dabney said 2018 was an abnormally bad year for fatal hit-and-run collisions in Merced. There were 11 last year, up from three fatal hit-and-runs in 2017, Dabney said.
“I don’t remember it ever being this high,” Dabney said. “We want to stress the importance of stopping at the scene. It’s not worth catching additional charges. And it doesn’t mean you’re going to automatically be found at fault.”
Pedestrians also should be careful and vigilant while crossing roads, Dabney said.
Police also are investigating two other fatal hit-and-run collisions — one on Oct. 19 in the 900 block of W. Childs Avenue, and the other on Dec. 28 at the intersection of 18th and G streets, Dabney said.
Anyone with information is being asked to contact Dabney at 209-388-7719, Merced police dispatch at 209-385-6905 or the tipster line at 209-385-4725. Anonymous messages can be sent by text by messaging to the number “TIP411,” or “847411,” and including the word “Comvip” as the text message keyword.