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Leads sought in fatal hit and run

<p>Francisco “Chito” Asuncion</p><p>CHELSEA JENSEN/Stephens Media</p><p>A flower bouquet sits near the marks of police investigators where Francisco “Chito” Asuncion was killed Feb. 28 in a hit-and-run accident on Mamalahoa Highway.</p>

By CHELSEA JENSEN

Stephens Media

The family of a 71-year-old Kealakekua man killed early Feb. 28 in a hit-and-run crash is asking the public to come forward with any information about his death.

Francisco Asuncion died shortly after 1 a.m. when he was apparently struck by a northbound sedan as he walked along the mauka side of Mamalahoa Highway fronting Kona Boys, just south of Hokukano Road in Kealakekua. The driver of the vehicle then fled the scene.

More fondly known as “Chito” to his family and friends, Asuncion at the time had been walking as part of his exercise routine to keep his heart strong, said daughter, Desiree Asuncion.

“They banged my dad and they just kept going,” Desiree said. “They didn’t brake. My dad just rolled over the car. We’re asking anybody that was up in the area to come forward — Kona is so small, everyone talks, someone has to know.”

Asuncion described her father as a simple, regular kind of guy who was retired and simply trying to keep healthy. He had recently moved to the Kealakekua area from the Kailua-Kona area where he was known to walk the Makaeo Walking and Jogging Path.

“He was the healthiest man I knew for being 71,” she said.

Desiree and her brother, Chito Asuncion, hope the public will come forward with more information and evidence to help police investigate her father’s death. The siblings also urged anyone who may have been a passenger in the vehicle to come forward.

“Please come forward. Please say something so that my family can have closure, so that my father can rest,” Chito said.

According to police statements, Asuncion was walking northbound on the highway around 1:30 a.m. when he was struck by a sedan believed to be a dark-colored Nissan.

The model is unknown as is whether it was a two- or four-door make, according to police. The vehicle should have damage to the front bumper, hood and windshield.

Desiree said police were able to locate surveillance video from Kona Boys that showed the accident. The daughter said police would not allow her to view it. Video was also recovered from the Tesoro gas station on Halekii Street that showed two Nissan sedans passing by.

Considering the time of the accident, and that only a passing motorist came upon her father’s body on the road, and that there were no apparent witnesses to the accident, Desiree said police are handling the case well.

“They got some stuff,” she said.

Police on Tuesday were unable to comment on the case. They referred calls to Traffic Enforcement Unit Sgt. Christopher Gali, who was off-island Tuesday. Stephens Media was also unable to reach his superiors, Maj. Randy Apele and Assistant Chief Henry Tavares, as of press time.

Though unable to give a definitive breakdown of the department’s standard operating procedure when investigating accidents, Maj. Sam Thomas said police first tend to the injured before securing the scene and collecting evidence.

Among the items police try to collect post-accident are crash data; witness interviews, if any; and any video surveillance, he said. Police also release media statements with the hopes of triggering the memory of someone who may have seen or heard something.

“We encourage (the public) to come forward with help in regard to this crash — or any crash,” Area II Assistant Chief Paul Kealoha said. “The community is our eyes and ears.”

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Officer Larry Flowers at 326-4646, ext. 229, or the department’s nonemergency line at 935-3311. Those who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 329-8181 in Kona or 961-8300 in Hilo. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Email Chelsea Jensen at cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com.

 

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