A 30-year-old Houston man was arrested in the hit-and-run accident that killed Jose Mendez-Manzano on Saturday. Eduardo Torres was charged with failure to stop and render aid, which as of September 2013 is considered a second-degree felony.
The victim, Mendez-Manzano, was a 63-year-old grandfather who sold fresh produce from a grocery cart tethered to the bicycle he used to get around town. He was struck near Link and Airline, along a two-way road without sidewalks. A white memorial bike marks the site of the accident, only a few blocks away from Mendez-Manzano's home.
Houston police say Torres turned himself in days after the accident.
Thursday evening bicyclists involved with Bike Houston and Ghost Bike, the group that erects memorials all over the city to mark fatal bike crashes, gathered in front of the Canino farmers' market with members of Mendez-Manzano's family. Their plan was to canvass the neighborhood with posters describing the accident in hopes that somebody would come forward with information. It was during that event that Michael Payne of Bike Houston received word from police that an arrest had been made, and he notified the family.
Payne says although Torres turned himself in, he did so only after members of Ghost Bike acquired photos of his pickup truck as it sped away from the scene on Saturday. Witnesses who took the photos were initially hesitant to share information with police because they are undocumented immigrants, he said.*
Bike Houston volunteers say they will attend Torres's arraignment in support of the Mendez-Manzano family, who held a wake Friday morning.
*Correction, Oct. 16, 2014, 1:30 p.m.: Although Payne initially credited members of the biking community with helping to track down Torres, he now says that it's unclear whether Ghost Bike's investigation contributed directly to his arrest. Payne says he only speculated that the photos were taken by undocumented immigrants.
However, Melissa Sims, one of Ghost Bike's organizers, tells us she pressed residents on the block where Mendez-Manzano was killed for information in the days following the accident. She ultimately found that witnesses had taken photos of Torres' truck as it drove away from the scene, but they were afraid to speak to police because of their immigration status, she said.