San Diego

Vigil Held for Chula Vista Teen Jogger Killed by Hit-and-Run Driver

Hundreds of family and friends gathered in Chula Vista Wednesday to pay tribute to a recent high school grad who was struck by a hit-and-run driver and killed while jogging last weekend.

The family of 17-year-old Leilani Magno said she was just months away from starting her first semester at the University of California, Irvine.

She was jogging along Lane Avenue near Scobee Park in Chula Vista at around 8:15 p.m. Sunday when a southbound truck jumped the sidewalk and ran her over.

The truck fled the scene.

Magno was taken to Mercy Hospital where she later died from her injuries. Her family said she was weeks away from turning 18.

"All this that happened to her is so tragic, but I know she wouldn't like to be remembered as a woman in an accident," her best friend Jennifer Gaxiola said. "She was the better half of me. She was the best person I knew."

A crowd of people touched by the life Leilani lived huddled with candles around her vigil as loved ones spoke about her character.

Magno's parents said among the things they'll miss most are the times they spent laughing, singing and dancing together, and said they'll always remember her for her genuine nature.

"Having a great heart and caring for everyone else. I want to say maybe she got it from us," her mom Vanessa said.

A family statement released Monday said Magno was "very loved" and will leave a "devastated community behind." Countless bouquets and cards were left at the site of the crash Monday and Tuesday.

"Her goal at UCI was to major in Biological Sciences and head into the medical field. Leilani was part of Track and Field and Cross Country during her years at Eastlake High School and continued to enjoy running after graduating high school," Magno's family said in a statement Monday.

An online fundraising page has been set up to help Magno's family.

Chula Vista Police Department Captain Phil Collum said the driver turned himself in Monday afternoon and gave investigators the location of his truck.

He was identified as George Espinosa Jr., 47, of Chula Vista.

Espinosa was arrested and charged with felony hit and run and was booked into county jail, according to Collum.

"This case is particularly unique in that the person was just jogging," Collum said. "And jogging on the sidewalk, at that. I'm sure none of us would expect any kind of collision like this any day, much less when you're jogging off the side of the road on the sidewalk where pedestrians should be."

Anyone with information can contact CVPD by calling (619) 422-TIPS.

Contact Us