Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Police hope a $50,000 reward approved Friday by the Los Angeles City Council will generate leads that lead to the hit-and-run driver who fatally struck a 57-year-old woman in Highland Park.

Gloria Ortiz, a Salvadoran immigrant who had just become a U.S. citizen, was returning from a celebratory dinner at her stepdaughter’s home on Sept. 14 when she was struck by the driver as she walked across Avenue 50 at San Marcos Place about 7:50 p.m.

The driver, described only as a male Hispanic, was driving a black, older-model Honda Civic.

Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo joined LAPD detectives and Ortiz’s daughter to announce the $50,000 reward and to call on the public to help find the driver.

“This is a very tragic story,” Cedillo said. “She was actually leaving a celebratory dinner … with her family, and to be struck at an intersection … near an elementary school — most responsible drivers know you have to slow down.

“It was also an intersection on a hill, which should tell you that you should slow down, because your vision is impaired,” he said, “yet we have this tragedy, somebody not stepping up to their responsibilities.”

Police have only a vague description of the suspect vehicle, “which is why it’s extremely important for anybody who has information regarding this to contact us,” Central Traffic Division Detective Michael Kaden said.

“I wish we can give you a year, I wish I can give you a range of years, but we don’t have that information,” he said, adding that the car should have front-end damage.

Kaden said detectives do not know if the driver was distracted by a cell phone or something else, but Ortiz, who was on crutches due to a knee surgery, had been walking “extremely slowly.”

The driver also appeared to know that he hit Ortiz because he slowed down and pulled the curb momentarily before driving away, according to Kaden.

Kaden said he “understands” what happened was “just a traffic accident, but it has totally destroyed the family.”

Ortiz’s daughter said her mother had been “struggling a lot” to become a citizen.

“That was her dream,” Yesenia Ortiz said. “She brought us here legally, that was her goal. And when she finally reached her dream, someone just out of nowhere took her life.”

Anyone with information about the driver or the whereabouts of his vehicle was urged to call police at (213) 833-3713, or Detective Felix Padilla at (213) 486-0753. After hours and weekends, call (877) LAPD-24-7.

—City News Service

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