AUSTIN — A fundraiser was held Saturday for an Austin father who died in his best friend's arms early Wednesday morning after police said a driver hit him and took off. Police identified the victim as 29-year-old Jonathan DeLeon.
According to police, a preliminary investigation showed Deleon was standing near the rear driver's side of a parked vehicle in the 2000 black of East Cesar Chavez. A white van or SUV struck Deleon before fleeing the scene at 2:05 a.m. Deleon was transported to Dell Seton Medical Center, where he was pronounced deceased.
A video shared by the Austin Police Department Friday captured the driver leaving the scene of the incident and now police are seeking the public's help in identifying the driver.
Austin police are also encouraging any businesses in the area of East Cesar Chavez to check their surveillance cameras for the suspect's vehicle.
"I just hope someone speaks up because if it was a love one of yours, you would feel the same way we feel," said Ariel Hernandez, DeLeon's little sister.
DeLeon's family and friends told KVUE he was supposed to get on an early morning flight to Alaska Wednesday morning to help with his father's company. DeLeon and his friends went out Tuesday night to celebrate.
"We were talking about going to the next place, just to go hang out," said DeLeon's close friend, Fernando Salazar. "We're outside of the car just talking. A vehicle just came out of nowhere fast and hit him."
The driver kept going, according to Austin police.
"He died in my arms, in my hands. I seen him take his last breath," Salazar said. "I just lost my brother. I lost a close friend."
Anngelika Guerra, the mother of DeLeon's three children, is still trying to understand what happened.
"It’s been pretty devastating. It’s something that nobody expects to take on, especially the 2 a.m. call that nobody wants to get. It’s unexpected," Guerra told KVUE. "It's just not human to just leave somebody there after just hitting him and leaving them to die."
She and DeLeon's friends want the driver who hit and killed him to come forward.
"We just want justice. We want him to be at peace," Guerra said. "We don't want to be angry with you. We just want Jonathan to lay to rest in peace."
DeLeon's wife, Crystal Correa, told KVUE he was known around Austin as one of the best car audio installers.
"Jonathan was a great man and father to his kids and his stepchildren. His smile and big dimples will always be something we will remember," Correa said. "I pray the person who did this comes forward and talks or someone speaks up and says they seen something. Jonathan didn't deserve to die like this. He will always be in our hearts and continue to pray for justice."
DeLeon's family and friends hosted a barbecue benefit on Saturday to pay for his funeral services. The event was from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 2730 E. Seventh St.
DeLeon's father, John Hernandez was at that barbecue. Hernandez said the family is determined to find the driver that struck their son.
"I just want justice and the person driving the vehicle to get caught," said Hernandez.
The last few days have not been easy for him and his family. They are now struggling to figure out how to pay for the funeral.
Hernandez said the community of East Austin sometimes gets neglected.
"When there's an accident in East Austin, they leave it as it is," said Hernandez. "We're not going to sleep until we get something done."
Dozens of people gathered for food and drinks, hoping to raise money for DeLeon's three children and funeral expenses.
In the crowd was his younger sister Ariel, who was selling t-shirts that commemorate her brother.
"I just hope someone speaks up because if it was a love one of yours, you would feel the same way we feel," she said.
DeLeon is survived by his wife, Correa; his three stepchildren; and his three children with Guerra.
"I wish I could just bring him back," his little sister explained, as tears fell down her eyes.
A Facebook fundraiser page was created to help pay for DeLeon's funeral costs. If you would like to donate, click here.
This is the 55th fatal traffic crash of 2018 in Austin, leading to 56 fatalities this year compared to the 52 total traffic fatalities at this time last year.
Police are searching for an SUV, possibly a white van, that was traveling westbound on East Cesar Chavez Street about 2 a.m. Wednesday.
If you have any information that can help detectives find the driver, call police at 512-974-5576.