LAWRENCEVILLE - A driver accused of running over an 8-year-old boy on a bicycle and then leaving the scene appeared to be drunk when pulled over by police and had an open bottle of beer in his van, according to preliminary hearing testimony.
A magistrate judge on Friday found probable cause to bind charges against 25-year-old Adan Garcia over to Gwinnett County Superior Court. Garcia is being held in the Gwinnett County Detention Center without bond on charges of felony hit and run, DUI, serious injury by vehicle and driving without a license. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Agency also has placed a hold on Garcia because he is an illegal immigrant from Jalisco, Mexico.
Police allege that Garcia drove a white utility van from a family gathering at a park on Easter Sunday to Gwinnett Mobile Home Park in Loganville to pick up a friend. Garcia was driving out of the neighborhood with his friend in the passenger seat when he went over a speed bump and struck an 8-year-old who was riding a bicycle in the street, according to a police report.
The 8-year-old's arm was nearly severed at the elbow during the accident, but doctors at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite were able to reattach it. Since then the boy, referred to only by his first name, Daniel, has undergone surgery every two to three days to help restore nerve and muscle function in his fingers, said Officer A.J. Morales of the Gwinnett County Police Department.
Morales said she spoke with Daniel on Thursday and he was not talkative about the accident.
"He did say he was riding his bike and the next thing he knew, he was hit," Morales said.
Dressed in a green prison jumpsuit, Garcia testified briefly through a Spanish translator during the bond phase of the preliminary hearing. He admitted he entered the country illegally four months ago to work as a painter for $9 an hour, despite having been deported once before by federal officials.
Garcia has no criminal history in the United States, according to prosecutors. Three of Garcia's brothers also live in Gwinnett County, Garcia testified.
His lawyer, David E. Clark, asked the judge to reduce the felony charges to misdemeanors. Clark said there wasn't enough evidence to prove Garcia was driving drunk when the boy was struck, because there was a 20- to 30-minute time lapse between when Garcia left the scene and when he was pulled over by police.
Clark also said Garcia didn't cause the accident, pointing out that the boy was bicycling in the middle of the street. Garcia may not have been aware that he struck the boy at first, Clark said, because he had just driven over a speed bump and there was noise from ladders and paint jostling around in the van.
Witnesses told police that after the van struck the 8-year-old, the little boy was dragged about 10 feet. The driver, whom they described as a small-framed Hispanic man, then stopped and got out, watching briefly as family members pulled the boy out from under the van and tended to his wound.
The driver got back into the van and proceeded another 30 feet or so before realizing that the bicycle was still trapped under the car. He and the passenger reportedly stopped again, got out and threw the bicycle into a yard before driving off.
The passenger was not with Garcia when he was pulled over by police near the intersection of Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road and Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville. Neighbors told investigators the passenger lived in the mobile home community, although police have been unable to identify or locate him.
During an inventory of the van, an open bottle of Corona beer was found inside a tackle box next to the driver's seat. Morales said Garcia appeared intoxicated, smelled of alcohol and slurred his speech when she spoke with him that day.
While walking into the hospital with police, Garcia dropped his head and said "This was very bad, I (am) going back to Mexico," Morales said.
Blood and urine tests are still pending to determine if Garcia was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Results could take six to eight weeks, Morales said.