Reward offered in hit-and-run that injured cyclist

Michele Kevitt Kirkland, the mother of severely injured Damien Kevitt, with CHP Lt. David Moeller and L.A. Councilman Tom LaBonge behind her, speaks about her son at a press conference to announce a $25,000 reward in conjunction with a Zoo Drive cyclist hit-and-run at the Griffith Park Ferraro Soccer Fields in Los Angeles. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / March 4, 2013)

Authorities on Monday announced a $25,000 reward for details leading to the arrest and conviction of a hit-and-run motorist who struck and severely-injured a 36-year-old cyclist riding near Griffith Park.

The reward from the Los Angeles City Council comes two weeks after the cyclist, Damian Kevitt, was hit on Feb. 17 on westbound Zoo Drive. He was dragged 600 feet under the motorist’s minivan until he was dislodged on the southbound Golden State (5) Freeway onramp.

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The motorist reportedly accelerated when he struck Kevitt as he was trying to flee the scene.
Kevitt had to have his right leg amputated as a result of the incident.

“This was not about cycling,” said Kevitt’s mother, Michele Kirkland, on Monday at a news conference at Griffith Park. “This was about one person who made the wrong decision and in a cowardly moment tried to get away and made things a lot worse.”

Kevitt, an avid cyclist and church counselor, has remained under the care of a team of surgeons, who have been treating his broken arms, legs, ribs, wrists, fingers, shoulders as well as a severe road rash at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center since the crash, she said.

Doctors are closely observing his left foot, which was mangled in the crash, Kevitt’s mother said, adding that they are still trying to determine whether it can be saved and remain functional.

“He is doing remarkably well,” Kirkland said. “It’s a miracle that he is alive, and he would not be alive if he were not wearing a bicycle helmet.”

Kevitt, a Los Angeles resident, was also wearing cycling gloves, but his mother said his fingertips were severely damaged.

Despite his injuries, Kirkland said her son will recover and “intends to get back on his bicycle if he ever can.”

Speaking on behalf of Kevitt, his mother said he urged everyone to support cycling and continue riding their bikes.

California Highway Patrol officials have ruled out half-dozen vehicles, scoured phone numbers and the Internet, followed up on numerous tips and handed out fliers at Griffith Park during the weekend in search of the motorist. But so far, investigators haven’t been able to identify who was driving the minivan.

“The sad thing is it could have been avoided,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge at the press conference. “It is a busy park and people always seem to be in a hurry. But also be aware of cyclists. There are more cyclists on the road than ever before and (you’ve) got to share the road.”

While investigators have “good witnesses” in the case, they are looking for a “small piece that’s going to connect it all,” said Lt. David Moeller of the CHP’s Altadena station.

The CHP initially described the motorist’s vehicle as an older gray Toyota Sienna, but officers said they are looking for any small, light-colored minivan that may have been at the park’s John Ferraro Soccer Complex around 11:35 a.m. on Feb. 17.

The minivan had a pre-manufactured “For Sale” sign posted on the right rear window. The sign also had “For Sale” written in Spanish and a phone number with a 213 area code. A witness also reported that the last four digits of the phone number may have been 0776.

The motorist was described as a man between 20 and 30 years old with dark hair.

Moeller urged residents who know anyone who has recently tried to sell a light-colored minivan or a former minivan owner is now driving a different vehicle to notify CHP officials. They should contact the authorities if they know of any light-colored van owners who have suddenly disappeared.

“I believe a neighbor, family member or friend is going to be key to identifying this vehicle,” Moeller said.

Anyone with details about the crash or the motorist is asked to call CHP’s Altadena station at (626) 296-8100 or (323) 259-2010.

-- Veronica Rocha, Times Community News

Follow Veronica Rocha on Google+ and on Twitter: @VeronicaRochaLA.