By Andrea Swayne
A driver hit a man walking in a shopping center parking lot Saturday evening in Dana Point and then fled the scene, authorities said.
According to Deputy Larry Costa, who responded to the call, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department began receiving calls at 5:10 p.m. Saturday reporting a hit-and-run of a pedestrian in the Rite Aid/Ralphs parking lot at Golden Lantern and Del Prado Avenue.
“A man driving a Mercedes SUV hit a man walking in the parking lot near the Rite Aid store and then despite efforts of witnesses to get the man to stop, fled the scene,” Costa said, adding that a man and woman who were among the witnesses attempted to follow the car but the suspect eventually eluded them.
The victim—a man in his 50s or 60s who eventually left the scene in his own vehicle—was treated by paramedics for abrasions to his right arm and despite complaints of pain to his back and left hip, refused ambulance transport to a hospital.
The car was described as a Mercedes SUV M-Class, dark silver, charcoal metallic, bluish-silver or dark blue metallic in color and likely a 2011 or similar model.
Witness Neil Donovan of Dana Point—who was among the 9-1-1 callers—said he had just pulled into the parking lot when he heard a loud thud followed by people yelling, “Stop that car,” and “Don’t let that guy leave.” Donovan said he then saw a man on the ground in front of the Mercedes and quickly snapped a photo of the scene with his cell phone.
Donovan said he and another man then began commanding the suspect to “park the car” and “get out of the car,” while others attended to the victim.
According to other witnesses, the victim was thrown approximately 4 to 5 feet and landed directly on his back.
“Two of us thought we had finally gotten the driver to stop when he said ‘OK, OK’ and started to pull into a parking spot,” Donovan said. “But the whole time he kept looking behind him like he was going to back up and then inching forward so we had a feeling he was going to try to run. We tried to open the doors but they were locked and then all of a sudden he gunned it and took off.”
A few other witnesses attempted to run after the car for a bit but backed off when it became apparent the man wasn’t going to stop, and then one of the witnesses jumped into a car with his girlfriend and they chased after the Mercedes, he said.
According to the man and woman who attempted to follow the suspect in their car, the suspect sped out through the west exit near the Bank of America, headed north on Del Prado and then right on Violet Lantern and onto La Cresta before heading north on Pacific Coast Highway. The suspect eventually eluding them somewhere around PCH and Selva Road, Costa said.
Deputies’ attempts to intercept the suspect with sheriff’s units coming from the north were unsuccessful.
“I was just really shocked that someone would hit someone and then try to run in the middle of Dana Point, with so many witnesses around,” Donovan said. “In the photo you can see the car still had the paper plates in the window and a dealer plaque in the front plate holder from Fletcher Jones Newport Beach.”
Donovan said he followed up with a manager at that dealership to share the photo with him and to find out whether they could be of help in locating the suspect. A manager at the dealership assured Donovan they would be standing by waiting for police to contact them, he said.
“The investigation is ongoing and we expect that the dealership could be of assistance,” Costa said. “Witnesses should be reminded to avoid putting themselves in harm’s way but as for the witnesses in this case, they did a great job—providing a good photo and detailed descriptions of the incident, the suspect and the vehicle.”
Anyone with information about the suspect should call the Orange County Sheriff’s Department at 714.647.7000. Anonymous tips can be submitted to Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855.TIP.OCCS (855.847.6227) or at occrimestoppers.org.