Long Beach, county to offer $25K reward to find hit-and-run driver who killed father, daughter

After the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $10,000 reward Tuesday for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect in the hit-and-run crash that killed a 42-year-old man and his 3-year-old daughter in North Long Beach last month, Long Beach officials agreed to contribute an additional $15,000, bringing the reward to $25,000.

“The deaths of Jose and Samantha have had a devastating, lasting impact on our community,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a written statement. “We are hopeful this reward will encourage those with information to come forward, and I want to thank Supervisor (Janice) Hahn for supporting these efforts as well.”

Community members, along with city leaders, have rallied behind the Palacios family for more than a month after the deaths of 42-year-old Jose and 3-year-old Samantha when a pickup truck crashed into the family’s studio apartment on March 1. Bleeding from his face after the crash, the man fled the scene on foot and has yet to be located and arrested.

Police believe the driver was 24-year-old Octavio Montano Islas, and authorities said he was drinking that night at the Bottoms Up Tavern, which is located just a few feet from the Palacios’ apartment.

On the night of the crash, Montano Islas was visiting Bottoms Up Tavern with his brother, Irwin, the person to whom the pickup truck was registered, according to a search warrant filed in Long Beach Superior Court.

Although it is not clear what time the brothers arrived, security footage that police collected from a cannabis dispensary nearby shows them exiting a 2014 Dodge Ram 1500 truck after racing eastbound along the south curb in the 1700 block of Artesia Boulevard in an effort to park the vehicle, according to the search warrant. The two brothers proceed to cross Artesia Boulevard, making their way to Bottoms Up Tavern, according to the search warrant.

While at the bar, Montano Islas asked his brother for the keys to the truck to move it from across Artesia Boulevard to the bar parking lot in the 6600 block of Rose Avenue, according to the search warrant. During this time, Irwin stayed inside the bar to use the restroom, according to a statement he made to the police. When Irwin observed bar patrons gathering and exiting the front door, he followed and saw his truck had been slammed into an apartment building, according to the search warrant.

Inside the near-collapsing apartment, Esnelia Palacios and her son Salvador watched in horror as the truck pinned Jose and Samantha underneath.

Jose died at the scene. Meanwhile, neighbors helped get Samantha out of the rubble, but she died from her injuries at a hospital soon after.

“This act of destruction has no place in our city,” said Councilman Rex Richardson, who brought the reward item to the Long Beach City Council on March 22. “Octavio Montano Islas must be brought to justice and answer for his horrendous acts, and we need the public’s help to find him.”

Montano Islas was described as being 5-feet-8-inches tall and weighing 160 pounds, with black hair, brown eyes and unspecified tattoos on his right forearm.

Officials urge anyone with information on Montano Islas’ whereabouts to call detectives at 562-570-7355.

‘This can’t be happening’: Family of man, girl killed after pickup truck crashed through their apartment in shock

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Fernando Haro is the Long Beach Post's breaking news and public safety reporter.
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