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Arrest Made In Hit-&-Run Death Of Wheelchair-Bound Richmond Man

RICHMOND (CBS SF) -- Police on Thursday announced the arrest of a suspect in the hit-and-run death of a wheelchair-bound man in Richmond in September.

Investigators arrested Daniel Barnett, 25, a Contra Costa County resident, on Tuesday for allegedly crashing into and killing Richmond man David Cox, 52, as Cox crossed the intersection of 34th Street and Esmond Avenue the evening of Sept. 23, 2011, police said at a news conference Thursday.

That evening, police said, Barnett was driving his Lexus sedan on Esmond Avenue and struck Cox, ejecting him from his wheelchair and into the street. He then allegedly sped away from the scene, and several witnesses called 911.

Cox was taken to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

Police at the time were unable to locate the driver and asked the public for help but the case remained unsolved.

Then, earlier this year, Richmond police teamed up with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office in an unrelated undercover investigation into the sale of illegal drugs and firearms, Richmond police Detective Nicole Abetkov said.

During that operation, in which suspects sold illegal guns and drugs to undercover officers, police encountered Barnett, who at one point admitted his involvement in the fatal hit-and-run crash to undercover officers, Abetkov said.

That admission and other evidence, including Barnett's Lexus, which matched the description of the vehicle involved in the crash, led to his arrest Tuesday, according to Abetkov.

When police went to serve the arrest warrant for Barnett at an undisclosed location in unincorporated Contra Costa County on Tuesday, Barnett fled, prompting a short chase, Richmond police Sgt. Joey Schlemmer said.

Officers quickly apprehended him and found him to be in possession of illegal narcotics and a large amount of cash, Schlemmer said.

He was arrested and taken to Contra Costa County Jail.

On Thursday, Contra Costa County prosecutors charged Barnett with felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and felony hit-and-run with enhancements, Abetkov said.

Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus said Thursday the arrest was the result of collaboration between Richmond police, the ATF and district attorney's investigators, as well as citizens who provided information about the fatal crash to police.

"I think this particular crash really caused the community to be concerned that someone could be engaged in behavior like this and leave the scene," Magnus said. "It was just reprehensible."

The chief also credited Cox's family members, a handful of whom attended today's news conference, for their community outreach and efforts to gather information about the tragedy.

"There's been a lot of time and work that's gone into this case. We felt we really owed it to the family," Magnus said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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