San Diego

Wife of Chollas View Hit-and-Run Victim Says Prognosis Isn't Good

The victim's wife said her husband was just trying to save a little girl from a lashing and ended up being run over by an SUV

A good Samaritan who police say was run over after he tried to stop a woman from physically disciplining her younger sister in Chollas View Wednesday is in the hospital fighting for his life.

Zina Salsbury says her husband James Shank, 50, has multiple broken bones, heart and brain damage, and could lose a limb.

"The prognosis isn't good and he has a long way to go before we know anything," Salsbury said.

San Diego Police Department Lt. Ricky Radasa said Shank witnessed an older sister allegedly beating her younger sister in the parking lot of an apartment complex at 300 47th St. Shank called police just after 2 p.m. to report the incident.

Witnesses told police the older sister, now identified as Tantrina Spencer-Simmons, 24, was using a belt to hit her 8-year-old sister. 

Radasa said the incident between the sisters started in their home and continued outside.

Police do not believe the child was in any danger; Radasa described the altercation as "just two sisters getting into it."

However, Shank tried to intervene.

Minutes later, another witness called police to report that Spencer-Simmons had hit Shank with her SUV after he approached her.

Police said Spencer-Simmons had placed her little sister in the SUV before getting herself into the driver's seat. At that point, Shank walked up to the vehicle and confronted Spencer-Simmons about the beating.

Shank was standing in the parking lot near Spencer-Simmons' SUV when the situation took a violent turn.

Radasa confirmed Spencer-Simmons ran over Shank two to three times and dragged him an unknown distance. Investigators said she "rapidly accelerated" and "intentionally" ran over him.

Spencer-Simmons then took off, fleeing through the parking lot and then southbound on 47th Street. Police released a description of the woman and began searching for her.

By 8:30 p.m., SDPD officials confirmed Spencer-Simmons had been arrested along the 4500 block of Market Street, about a half-mile away from the scene of the hit-and-run.

Salsbury said her husband has a broken pelvis, arm and broken ribs to go along with a punctured lung, and head and heart damage. His arm was so badly injured in the hit-and-run that it may have to be amputated, according to Salsbury.

"I don't know. I don't understand it," Salsbury said. "I don't know how one human being could do that to another human being."

Speaking exclusively to NBC 7 again Thursday, Salsbury said she's leaning on her faith as she does everything she can to help her husband in the fight for his life.

"That's what has gotten me this far through everything I have had to go through, it's faith," she said.

Salsbury said she spends every moment she can by her husband's bedside speaking to him and letting him know that she loves him and that she is there for him.

According to Salsbury, Shank had to have emergency surgery Wednesday to repair his broken pelvis.

She told NBC 7 she couldn't imagine why Spencer-Simmons would go to such great lengths to hurt someone.

"You just can't help people anymore. There is evil people out there," she lamented.

Shank's story of survival has spread virally through the Chollas View community and beyond. A GoFundMe page was started to raise funds for Shank's recovery.

Neighbors said Spencer-Simmons doesn't live at the home where the altercation began but often visits. According to police, she might be living out of her SUV.

NBC 7 has learned that Spencer-Simmons is one of nine children and took on the role of raising her younger sister.

Court documents show her grandfather filed a temporary restraining order against her for elder abuse in 2017. Her grandfather also accused her of stabbing him in 2015.

Friend of the family Janet Stephens said she helped raise Spencer-Simmons, and said that despite occasional fits of anger Spencer-Simmons has a good heart. According to Stephens, Spencer-Simmons even created a nonprofit organization aimed at helping the homeless.

Salsbury told NBC 7 she hopes the punishment for Spencer-Simmons is swift.

"I want her to get what is coming to her because God is going to take care of her and it is not going to be good," she said.

According to Radasa, there were several cooperating witnesses at the scene. He said investigators are also looking at evidence from cameras at a nearby trolley station that may help police piece together what happened.

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