A motorist who fatally struck a pedestrian in Sherman Heights last year, then drove off without stopping, was sentenced Monday to four years in state prison.
Christopher Nunez, 29, pleaded guilty to a vehicular manslaughter charge in connection with the Jan. 19, 2020, hit-and-run death of 41-year-old Jason Gordon, who was struck at about 2 a.m. in the 1800 block of Market Street.
Deputy District Attorney Jessica Paugh said Gordon was crossing the street when he was struck by an SUV and dragged more than 100 feet. Gordon, a married father of two daughters, died at the scene.
Paugh alleged Nunez had been drinking prior to striking Gordon, though his blood-alcohol content could not be proven due to his flight from the scene.
Following the crash, Nunez stopped for food at Humberto’s Taco Shop, less than a mile from the site of the traffic fatality, police said. While in the restaurant’s parking lot, police said he also crashed into an occupied vehicle. Paugh said Nunez nearly struck other pedestrians prior to hitting Gordon.
An image of Nunez was captured on surveillance footage at the eatery and circulated to the public. He was arrested three days later at an Oak Park home, where police also located the SUV involved in the fatality.
According to Paugh, Nunez initially claimed he thought he’d struck a dog, but the prosecutor questioned that claim and chided Nunez for not returning to the scene to confirm what he’d struck.
Paugh said, “He did not even give Mr. Gordon the courtesy one would give a dog that you hit in the street and instead, he left him to die alone while he went and got a taco.”
Nunez made a statement in court to the victim’s loved ones, in which he said, “My heart completely sank” when discovered he’d killed someone.
“I am ashamed of my irresponsible behavior. Your family does not deserve what I did. … I should have been driving in a careful manner and vigilant of the road ahead,” Nunez said.
Several of Gordon’s family members urged San Diego Superior Court Judge Daniel Goldstein to impose the maximum possible sentence, which would have been six years.
Gordon’s widow and the mother of his now-2-year-old daughters, Katie Gordon, said, “Every day I wake up with a broken heart,” adding she was “heartbroken” that her husband, who was “generous with his time and was kind to every soul he met,” would not be able to watch his girls grow up.
“(Nunez) did not even have the decency to stop. He did not stop to see if he could save Jason’s life. He did not call 911. He did not stop to take responsibility for what he’s done,” she said.
Goldstein said he did not find the upper term of six years appropriate given Nunez’s lack of criminal record, though he also denied a defense request for a sentence of probation.
Though the judge said Gordon likely would not have survived even if Nunez had stopped, he said “there’s a matter of human decency that you stop and you try and help at least.”
–City News Service