Suspected DUI driver arrested after fatal crash with man in wheelchair

A man in a wheelchair was killed crossing the street in Long Beach Thursday night when a drunk driver hit him and drove off, police said.

The driver returned to the scene after a witness followed him, according to Mike Da Veiga, a motorcyclist who said he’s the one who chased after the driver and urged him to go back.

“I said, ‘Dude, get out of the car. You ran someone over. He’s definitely dead,’” Da Veiga said.

The crash happened around 8 p.m. when a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee hit the man at Bellflower Boulevard and Harvey Way near Lakewood High School, police said.

Paramedics took the injured man to the hospital where doctors determined he was dead, according to authorities.

Da Veiga said he wasn’t sure the driver realized what happened. There were two small kids in the Jeep when he managed to get him to pull over a short distance away.

“Everyone was screaming, and when I told him what he did, I saw tears fly out of his eyes at that point,” Da Veiga said.

Da Veiga said the man in the wheelchair was crossing the street against a red light, using his foot to push himself backward through the crosswalk. He said that’s part of why he followed the driver and flagged him down.

“The only thing that’s going to save you is it wasn’t your fault,” Da Veiga said he told the driver.

Police confirmed the driver left the scene and returned a short time later, but they’re still trying to determine if the man in a wheelchair was crossing against a red light.

Investigators took the driver to the Downtown police station after a field sobriety test appeared to show he was impaired, according to Long Beach police Lt. Robert Woods.

He’s since been arrested on suspicion of DUI and hit-and-run and is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail, police said.

Police identified the driver as Jesus Jorge Arias, a 37-year-old Lakewood resident.

Authorities haven’t publicly identified the man in the wheelchair, but they said he was 29 years old.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with more information from police and Da Veiga.

Support our journalism.

Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.

Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.