Arrest in Seattle hit-and-run that killed bicyclist

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by TRAVIS PITTMAN / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on June 7, 2012 at 10:16 AM

Updated Friday, Jun 8 at 8:40 AM

SEATTLE – Police announced an arrest Thursday in a hit-and-run that killed a Seattle bicyclist last summer, and prosecutors say the same man was arrested last weekend for another hit-and-run.

Michael Wang was hit by an SUV on July 28, 2011 while riding on Dexter Avenue North at Thomas Street in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle. He was on his way home to Shoreline.

Seattle Police Asst. Chief Paul McDonough said Erlin Garcia-Reyes, 28, of Normandy Park was interviewed Wednesday by police and arrested. He was scheduled for a first court appearance Thursday. He is being held on $500,000 bail.

The lead detective, Tom Bacon, said there were over 50 tips during the course of the investigation and that initial descriptions about the suspect vehicle were incorrect.

Confession to co-worker

Police have not said how they connected Garcia-Reyes to the crime, but a co-worker who showed up in court Thursday said Garcia-Reyes confessed to him.

Alexander Gonzalez said he was visiting Garcia-Reyes in jail Wednesday. Garcia-Reyes allegedly said Wang ran into the side of his SUV. Scared, nervous and concerned for his children, Garcia-Reyes drove away. He later discovered damage to the rear, driver’s side door of his 2002 Chevy Suburban. He got it repaired three weeks later.

Garcia-Reyes is a Honduran national who has lived in the U.S. for eight years, but is not an American citizen.

Gonzalez also said Garcia-Reyes' wife admitted she knew her husband was involved in the Wang accident.

McDonough said information about the investigation released to the public would be limited for now because prosecutors are working on the case.

“It is our sincere hope that this development will lead to some sense of justice and closure for Mike Wang’s children, his wife, his family, friends and for the people and communities around the world whose stories he told through his wonderful photography,” said Doug Palm, Wang’s employer at PATH in Seattle.

Wang was a member of the Cascade Bicycle Club. Club member Chuck Ayers praised Wang for his commitment to riding and the city of Seattle’s efforts to make cycling more accessible.

He also sent a message to drivers and cyclists alike.

“It is every person’s shared responsibility to look out for each other. Put down the phones. Stop texting. Unplug your ears. Obey the laws,” said Ayers.

Police said no single tip led them to Garcia-Reyes, but they praised the community’s assistance in the case.

“We take these crimes, because that’s what they are, very, very seriously and we’re not going to give up,” said McDonough. “But we still need the community’s engagement to help us resolve these.”

Another hit-and-run arrest

The King County Prosecutor’s Office said Garcia-Reyes was also arrested Sunday and booked on another hit-and-run case. Prosecutors say he was a passenger in a vehicle that went over a curb at a 76 gas station in the Greenwood neighborhood, doing some damage to the convenience store.

According to probable cause documents, the driver of the vehicle jumped into the back seat and Garcia-Reyes got behind the wheel and drove away. The vehicle was found at an apartment complex and towed away.

Police say Garcia-Reyes went to his girlfriend's house and called 911 to report his vehicle stolen and even signed a vehicle theft report. He was then told that he was caught on video and admitted to the hit-and-run.

According to court records, Garcia-Reyes has criminal traffic violations in 2008 and 2009 that were adjudicated in Seattle Municipal Court. He was also pulled over last Saturday in Pierce County by the Washington State Patrol and cited for speeding and not having insurance.

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