Miguel Mendez, 18, was born with Downs Syndrome and given one year to live, but he proved his doctors wrong and thrived.
On Saturday night, Mendez was killed in a hit-and-run crash in Watts and his family is pleading for the driver to come forward.
"Turn yourself in," said Augustine Pascal, Mendez’ younger brother. "How can you live with yourself knowing you killed a person?"
The crash happened about 7 p.m. Saturday outside the Mendez family home. The 18 year old was crossing Broadway Street south of Century Boulevard.
"I heard people screaming and didn’t think it was him," Pascal recalled.
The deadly collision was captured on surveillance footage from a nearby party store. Police are searching for the driver of a Chrysler Town and Country Mini Van, which may be green (pictured below).
Rolando Polanco, owner of Broadway Party Supplies, knew the victim and tried to help.
"As soon as I seen the van that hit him, I got on my bike and ran all over this area looking for the person who hit him," Polanco said.
Mendez was born with Downs Syndrome and deformities to his face and hands and despite a grim prognosis, Mendez thrived well past doctor’s predictions that he’d only live one year. He was a straight-A student at Bannaker Special Education School.
On Monday, as friends try to comfort his grieving mother, Mendez’s brothers stand on the street corner collecting donations for funeral expenses. They’ve set up a small memorial in his honor.
"He was always singing, an adorable guy. You can’t be mad at that guy," said his brother, William Mendez.
The family said Mendez usually didn’t go outside alone, but that night he had gotten the key to the front gate and left the house by himself.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call LAPD’s Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS. All information can be left anonymously.