Hit-and-run drivers kill five in weekend crashes

- This past weekend, there were a total of five deadly hit and run crashes in five Tampa Bay area counties.

Four of the victims were pedestrians. One was a bicyclist.

Law enforcement agencies are asking for the public's help in finding the people who were behind the wheel and took off.

Around midnight, Friday into Saturday, 56-year-old Leonard Wimberly, Junior was killed on Masterpiece Road in Lake Wales while riding his 3-wheeled bike. The Polk County Sheriff's Office said the suspect drives a Dodge 2500 or 3500 truck, in the 1998-2009 model range, that's missing a side tow mirror.

Three hours later, 20-year-old Steven Arnold was hit on Lakeshore Drive in Lorida by an unknown vehicle.

At 4 a.m. Saturday, 27-year-old Martin Garcia was killed by an unknown vehicle on 15th street East in Bradenton.

Saturday night, 56-year-old Stephen Matava was crossing U.S. 19 in New Port Richey when he was hit by a charcoal gray Hyundai, either a sedan or SUV. FHP reports that it has front end damage and is missing its left outside mirror and headlight.

The most recent hit and run left 19-year-old Mostafa Abdalla dead. Between Sunday afternoon and early Monday morning, deputies say he was walking south on Orient Road, north of Hanna Avenue in Tampa. His family said he was on the way home from his mosque.
   
Detectives found a passenger side mirror at the scene, believed to be from a teal green vehicle.

"We think it's a green-colored vehicle but right now, we are working the different vehicle manufacturers to try to identify that side view mirror to a particular model of a vehicle," said Corporal Larry McKinnon, Public Information Officer for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. "Some of these people are lying there dying and injured and you have to ask yourself, could they have lived, had some medical attention been summoned to help them?"

Monday afternoon, Abdalla's close friends gathered at the scene of the crash.

"What he did, he murdered somebody, and not only that, he killed us all because we are all devastated by it," said Salman Jalabi. "I would switch places with him right now. Without a doubt in my mind."

"He's only 19 and just knowing he is just gone like that," said Farres Hawasli. "It was the first time I ever burst out in tears and I never cry."

They say Abdalla was an uplifting person who was always smiling. He played basketball, loved to cook, and aspired to major in culinary arts.

"He was a real inspiration to me. He always taught me right from wrong," Jalabi said.

Friends and family are praying an arrest comes soon, for his case, and the four others.

"If you're watching right now, you're an animal and you should be ashamed," said Hawasli. "If you really didn't want to get in trouble, the least you could've done is call the police or ask someone else to call the police."

In two of the five cases, investigators have no descriptions of the vehicles. So, they're depending heavily on the community for tips. If you've seen a vehicle with front end damage or missing a side mirror, and have reason to believe they were involved in any of these fatal crashes, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477), report anonymously online at www.crimestopperstb.com or send a mobile tip using our P3 Tips Mobile application, which is a free download for iPhones, iPads and Droids.

 

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