Driver who hit 6 migrant workers outside North Carolina Walmart turns himself in to police
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina man who drove his car into a group of migrant workers in a Walmart parking lot, injuring six men, turned himself in to police Monday night.
Daniel Gonzalez, 68, of Hickory, surrendered at the Lincolnton Police Department with several relatives by his side, the department said in a statement. His family members told detectives that Gonzalez had hit the gas pedal accidentally while trying to park his car and left the scene in a panic.
Gonzalez had rammed his SUV into a group of 20-30 migrant workers waiting Sunday morning to board a shuttle bus that travels to and from a nearby farm.
An original statement from the police department earlier Monday said detectives believed the assault was intentional. Maj. Brian Greene, interim chief of the Lincolnton Police Department, said the driver’s motives are still under investigation, and that police are considering the new evidence.
Officers recovered the black sport utility vehicle involved in the crash. They arrested Gonzalez Monday night and charged him with a felony hit-and-run with a $50,000 secure bond.
The victims were treated at a local hospital for their injuries, and all six were released late Sunday, Greene told The Associated Press in an interview. Police identified them as Jorge A. Lopez, Zalapa M. Hermosillo, Jose L. Calderon, Luis D. Alcantar, Rodrigo M. Gutierrez-Tapia and Santiago Baltazar. They could not be reached for comment Monday.
The workers had arrived at the Walmart parking lot late Sunday morning from Knob Creek Orchard in Lawndale. Greene said they make the same trip once a week and use a shaded lawn at the bottom of the parking lot in Lincolnton as their regular meeting place to board buses. The men were standing under trees Sunday when an SUV pulled up next to the bus.
“It turns right in front of the bus and appears like it’s almost going to park,” Greene said, describing security footage of the incident. “And then it appears to accelerate at the last minute, jumping the curb, hitting the individuals and the trees and going through the area into the other side of the parking lot and exits the same way it came.”
The police department said it is continuing to work with the FBI, the State Bureau of Investigation and the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles on the investigation.
Hannah Schoenbaum is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.