A 65-year-old woman, mowed down by a hit-and-run driver who was on probation for a prior DUI arrest, was killed while doing something she did every day – taking a morning walk.
The suspect, identified as Aroldo Vela-Chavez, 26, of Concord, is accused of striking Linda Cochran on West Leland Road near the Delta View Golf Course Tuesday. She died instantly, just a mile away from her Pittsburg home, police said.
On Wednesday, the victim’s friend Jennifer Anderson expressed sadness at her death and lamented that she "didn’t know it would be her last [morning walk], though, yesterday."
Cochran leaves behind five sons, two of whom are disabled, Anderson said.
"It makes me sick to my stomach," she said. "She didn’t deserve that. She was the sweetest person in the world."
Anderson, who helped care for one of Cochran’s sons, said the longtime East Bay resident had recently retired and was caring for her sons full-time with her husband.
Vela-Chavez was driving with a suspended license while on probation for a August 2015 DUI arrest at which time his blood-alcohol content had been three times the legal limit, police said. He was sentenced last nonth and scheduled to start nine months of rehabilitation in May, police said.
Instead, Vela-Chavez was taken into custody Tuesday and is being charged with murder, vehicular manslaughter and felony evading, police Capt. Ron Raman said.
A police officer initially spotted Vela-Chavez speeding at about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday on eastbound West Leland Road, according to police.
When the officer attempted to stop the vehicle, Vela-Chavez accelerated and headed into heavy commute traffic, which police said led to the officer calling off the chase.
"The minute he attempted to pull that vehicle over, [it] fled at a high rate of speed," Police Capt. Ron Raman said, adding that the officer "did not feel it was safe to continue to pursue that vehicle."
Less than a mile down the road from the officer, the vehicle struck Cochran, who was walking along the sidewalk, and then crashed through the fence at Delta View Golf Course, according to police.
Cochran's neighrbor Jim Rydman said her family is devastated.
"The son came this morning and knocked on my front door in tears and I said, 'John, man, I can't even imagine what you are going through right now," he said.
The vehicle ripped through the golf course before Vela-Chavez abandoned it and attempted to take off on foot, police said.
Officers located Vela-Chavez several blocks away on Dover Way — the same street on which Cochran lived.
Pittsburg police will be investigating the case alongside the California Highway Patrol and the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office. At this point, it is unknown if alcohol or drugs contributed to Tuesday's crash, police said.
"It's not something that anybody should have to go through," Rydman said.
Bay City News contributed to this report.