Whittier's Adventure Park is where family and friends of Agustin Rodriguez, Jr. would go to enjoy good times, or just kick back. But on Tuesday night, the park served as a memorial, with candles lit in commemoration of his life — cut short at age 46.
While riding his bicycle to his parents' home, Rodriguez was killed in a hit and run collision the morning of Jan. 30. Rodriguez was dragged nearly 800 feet down Calmada Avenue when the driver continued without stopping. At least one of the witnesses was a child going to school.
"How can you not stop?" asked Jessica Sutton, active in the Whittier Neighborhood Watch, which has been distributing 2,500 flyers and appealing for the public's help in identifying the hit and run driver.
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Police described the car as a newer white Lexus sedan, with paper plates, the right side of the windshield and the front end damaged by the impact. The driver was difficult to see through the car's heavily tinted windows, but appeared to be a woman.
Police have leads they are pursuing, said Whittier Officer Richard Jensen.
After going through a rough period, Rodriguez was rebuilding his life, said Jennifer Foot, a friend since grade school. She said Rodriguez and his significant other were raising a 2-year-old daughter. He recently had returned to work at a new job. Because he no longer had a car, he rode his bike to his parents' house to get a ride with his father, a retired truck driver.
"'I'll be there in 10 minutes,'" Foot said Rodriguez had told his father by phone that Monday morning shortly before the sound of the sirens of emergency responders could be heard in the neighborhood.
"He had a smile that would light up the room when he entered," said his niece Raquel Newton.
He was always there when you needed him," said his nephew Luis Lopez, Jr. "He'd show up out of nowhere. He was a godsend."
There are accounts of the white car being driven erratically — the driver honking and yelling — while heading south down Calmada Avenue, pulling around to pass a car right before striking Rodriguez.
"I believe it started as an accident," Foot said. What she and family members cannot comprehend is the car dragging Rodriguez so far, and never stopping to help or call for help.
Anyone with information that could lead to the driver is urged to contact Whittier Police at 562-567-9261.