Jalopnik commenters help police find hit-and-run driver

Jalopnik commenters identified the make and model of the vehicle from a car part left at a hit-and-run, which later helped police find and arrest two men in connection with the crime.

Liane Yvkoff
Liane Yvkoff is a freelance writer who blogs about cars for CNET Car Tech. E-mail Liane.
Liane Yvkoff
2 min read

Who knows how long it would have taken police to identify the small piece of metal that was left at the scene of a hit-and-run accident less than two weeks ago? Well, thanks to Jalopnik's knowledgable gearhead audience, police already have two suspects in custody.

On April 7, a 57 year-old woman was struck and killed by a vehicle while walking along the side of a road in Waynesboro, Va. There was no description of a vehicle, and the only evidence was a piece of metal that broke off as a result of the impact.

The Waynesboro Police Department posted a photo of the car part on April 9, hoping that the pubic could recognize the vehicle. The next day, Jalopnik picked up the story and challenged readers to help the police catch the driver by matching the vehicle to the car part.

That same day a Jalopnik commenter posted a photo a Ford F-150 truck grille, and many others chimed in to help narrow the model down to the year and possible trim level. Jalopnik informed police of its findings, and the information helped Waynesboro's finest build a case to arrest two suspects.

The info from the Jalopnik commenters, along with an anonymous tip, led them to the location of a 2000 Ford F-150 truck with part of the grille missing. They later arrested Harrisburg, Va., residents Victor A. Espinoza for being the driver of the vehicle and failing to report an accident involving injury or death, and Juan M. Gonzalez-Vasquez for being a passenger of the vehicle and failing to report an accident which resulted in a person being killed or injured. Both suspects are being held without bond.

In a news statement, the Waynesboro Police Department thanks the numerous "concerned citizens" who helped them with this investigation. Police using crowdsourcing, by drawing on social media to help catch criminals is a new trend, and it can be particularly helpful with specialized evidence, such as vehicles and vehicle parts.

Capt. Kelly Walker told Jalopnik that the information provided by the automotive Web site's readers was critical to the case, because identifying car parts is "like looking for a needle in a haystack."

Via Jalopnik