Witnesses chase down man suspected of hitting child

By Chuck Weber email

WEST OF LAKE WORTH, FL (WFLX)-Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputies have arrested a man for hitting a boy on a bicycle and taking off. The boy is expected to survive. Investigators say the arrest was possible only because witnesses got involved and followed the suspect in their cars.

It happened Saturday evening on Melaleuca Lane, near Military Trail, west of Lake Worth. A 5- to 7-year old boy was trying to cross Melaleuca on his bike.

"When I saw that kid, I ran to the street and tried to stop the cars," explained neighbor Francisco Rivas. At first, Rivas said, he was worried because the boy did not move.

"I don't know maybe three minutes later, he started to cry," recalled Rivas. "I felt good. He moved."

Trauma Hawk flew the boy to the hospital. Investigators believe his injuries do not appear life threatening.

Sheriff's Lt. Paul Rispoli said it's not every day witnesses actually take the time to help, but that's what took place in this case. Deputies say two other drivers followed the hit-and-run suspect. One came back to the scene with the suspect's tag number. The other good Samaritan? He followed all the way to Lake Worth Road and Military.

There, investigators say, as the suspect stopped for a red light, the witness who followed, got out of his car and reached into the suspect's car, taking the keys out of the ignition.

Moments later deputies arrived and arrested 25-year old Cesar Cruz-Arita. Investigators say Cruz did not have a driver license and may have been driving drunk. Deputies had medics take a blood sample.

"It was fantastic," said Lt. Rispoli of the help witnesses provided. "I don't know how we would have found the suspect without them."