A 19-year-old man pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges stemming from a hit-and-run crash that killed a 5-year-old boy outside his South Los Angeles home last month.
Superior Court Judge Deborah S. Brazil ordered Homer Watford to return to a downtown Los Angeles courtroom April 19 for a hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to require him to stand trial.
Watford — who is free on a $50,000 bond — is charged with a felony count of hit-and-run driving resulting in death or serious injury to another person and a misdemeanor count of driving when his privilege was suspended or revoked after a prior offense.
The youngster — identified by the coroner’s office as Ronald Neal — ran into the roadway and was struck by an SUV traveling westbound on 82nd Street toward Towne Avenue at about 5:10 p.m. March 14. The boy died at a hospital of head injuries.
Watford went to the LAPD’s 77th Street Area station the following day and told police he had been driving the vehicle, according to a police statement.
His green 1997 Chevrolet Tahoe was found in the 2300 block of Third Avenue and had collision damage consistent with what was seen in video from a nearby security camera, according to police.
The boy’s father told KTLA that Watford — whom he described as a childhood friend — had apologized to the tot’s mother before surrendering to police.
The boy’s uncle, Antoine Smith, told the TV station that Watford tearfully apologized to the family and told them he didn’t realize he had struck the boy until seeing the security camera video on the news.
Family members led a candlelight vigil in the boy’s memory after his death.
—City News Service
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