An 80-year-old woman is now at home recuperating from serious injuries after being hit by a truck on Maclay Avenue, in the City of San Fernando, while the suspected driver of the vehicle is in custody.
“She has a long way to recovery. She broke her right ankle and it had to be reconstructed. They put in a plate and screw, and her L-3 (in her lower back) was broken,” said Erica Rios-Lopez, describing the injuries sustained by her mother, Hildeliza Rios.
Rios was released from the hospital on Nov. 28. She was supposed to go into a skilled nursing facility because she requires care 24/7, “but because of COVID, we decided to take care of her at home,” Rios-Lopez said.
“She can’t walk. We sit her up. She has to wear a brace. Her therapy session is sitting for some time. She can’t put any weight on her right ankle,” the daughter added.
On Nov, 19 at 10:30 a.m., Rios was returning home from a grocery store in town when she got off the trolley at the intersection of Maclay Avenue and 8th Street.
The San Fernando resident was legally within the crosswalk, heading to her residence on Harding Avenue, when she was struck by a pickup truck that fled the scene.
Rios was left in the middle of the street. When responders showed up, they transported her to Providence Holy Cross.
A witness that followed the suspect vehicle described it as a navy blue Chevrolet crew cab pickup with paper plates. But the witness was not able to keep up. The vehicle did not stop.
“(The driver) left the scene and just left her there,” Rios-Lopez said.
The daughter went door-to-door in the vicinity of the accident, and put up posters at businesses pleading for other witnesses to come forward.
“I went door-to-door trying to get answers. A lot of businesses didn’t have working cameras,” she said.
But San Fernando police had a description of the vehicle, Chief Tony Vario said. And, with the help of witnesses and Rios’ family, investigators were able to follow some leads.
It turned out the truck was one of eight vehicles recently stolen from a used car dealership on La Rue Street and San Fernando Road in Pacoima, just outside the city limits. Six of the vehicles had been recovered, but two were still missing.
“We determined the vehicle was stolen because a witness saw paper plates on the truck,” Vairo said.
The following day, Nov. 20, officers from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Mission Station stopped the truck on Foothill Boulevard and Hubbard Street in Sylmar.
“Based on the damage and the description of the vehicle, we matched it with the vehicle involved in the hit-and-run and we went over there,” Vairo said.
Officers arrested Tyler Michael Shaffer, 22 — who, coincidentally, lives just around the corner from the victim — and took him into custody.
Shaffer faces a number of charges, including felony hit-and-run and causing bodily injuries, probation violation, grand theft auto and being in possession of a stolen vehicle.
“This hopefully gives the family some closure,” Chief Vairo said.
“Things just went in the right direction,” he said, adding that Shaffer “was no smart criminal. He knows the truck is hot because he just hit a pedestrian, but is still driving it.”
Vairo also said Shaffer “admitted to being involved” in the hit-and-run incident.
According to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s records, Shaffer is currently at the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic as of Nov. 29, and his next court date is Dec. 17.
Based on the charges and his prior record, Vairo said, “He’s got to serve some good time. He has to answer for his crimes.”
For her part, Rios-Lopez said she forgives him, but also hopes justice is served.
“The most important thing I would tell him: I pray that he finds peace in his heart and ask God for forgiveness, that he changes his ways and lives to be a better person,” she said.