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Police seek driver in Mitchell Road hit-and-run

Modesto police are looking for the driver who they say fled the scene of a Mitchell Road accident that severely injured a 3-year-old girl.

The Turlock girl was in "critical, guarded condition" with a major head injury Thursday at the University of California Medical Center in Sacramento, said Lt. Chris Fuzie. He would not release the name of the girl or her family.

Fuzie described the hit-and-run suspect as Gabriel Garcia Martinez, 23. He is 5 feet 6 to 5 feet 7 inches tall, 170 pounds with dark hair and a light complexion. Martinez was last seen wearing a white T-shirt, beige shorts and white tennis shoes.

Martinez is a carnival worker with Butler Amusement and is in the area temporarily for a carnival in Ceres, Fuzie said.

Fuzie gave this account of the 7:30 p.m. Wednesday hit-and-run accident:

The Turlock family of five was in a minivan turning left onto Mitchell Road from Finch Road on a green light. A Dodge pickup driving north on Mitchell ran a red light and broadsided the minivan.

The 3-year-old girl, who was in a booster seat, took the brunt of the impact. The girl's parents and 1-year-old and 10-year-old brothers also were restrained. They were taken to local hospitals, where they were treated and released. The mother is pregnant.

The 3-year-old was airlifted to the medical center.

The Dodge pickup was found abandoned about a quarter-mile north of the wreck on Mitchell Road. Officers found four men nearby, who initially denied any involvement. But one eventually said he had been a passenger in the truck, and police determined all four were passengers.

Police closed Mitchell Road from South Riverside Drive to Hatch Road for several hours as they investigated the accident.

Police ask anyone with information about Martinez's whereabouts to call traffic officer Dan Starr at 572-9571 or CrimeStoppers at 521-4636. People can e-mail tips via www.modestopolice.com/CrimeStoppers or text them to CRIMES (274637) by typing "Tip704" plus the message.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or 578-2316.

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