ASHBURN — As family gathered Tuesday evening for a vigil to mourn a 13-year-old bicyclist whom a hit-and-run driver killed, word quickly spread among the group that a man had been charged in the crash.
Family and friends of Issac Martinez gathered at the crash site in the 8300 block of South Lawndale Avenue in the Ashburn neighborhood to mourn him, demand justice and call for greater bicycle safety measures in Chicago. They were joined by bicyclists from around the city who formed a “human-protected bike lane” in his honor.
Issac’s mother spoke with a wavering voice about her only child, a sweet and happy boy, she said.
“Issac was a smart kid, he was a happy boy. He had just gotten his first bike and he was excited to ride it and go play basketball at his cousin’s house. But he never made it,” Itzel Dirzo said.
The crash happened Sunday evening. Issac wasn’t headed far from home — his cousins live about a half-block away, said his aunt, Jamala Hernandez.
But witnesses told police a man driving a Ford work van struck and killed Issac before driving away. A license plate left behind at the scene helped police find the driver, the witnesses said.
“He was like a son to my family. We took him everywhere with my kids and he loved his mother dearly,” Hernandez said. “What’s sad about this situation is his mother never let him go outside because she was scared that something would happen to him.”
Mourners gathered Monday and Tuesday night at the scene to call for justice. Then came the news that police charged Oscar Martinez Guerrero, 40, in the crash.
Police said Guerrero was found about an hour after and a mile away from where Issac was killed. He was charged Tuesday with felony leaving the scene of accident that caused injury or death, felony failure to report an accident that caused death and a series of misdemeanors, including failing to stop to give aid.
Members of Bike Lane Uprising, which advocates for improved bicycle safety measures throughout the city, rode to Ashburn to support the family and create the human bike lane.
“He was legally required to bike on the street. He was following all of the rules and the infrastructure just wasn’t there to keep him safe,” said Christina Whitehouse, founder of Bike Lane Uprising.
“What happens to one cyclist in Chicago is felt by the community around the city.”
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help fund some of Issac’s funeral expenses. As of Wednesday, nearly $7,000 had been raised.
Family members said they hope Issac’s father, who is currently incarcerated and scheduled to be released in two months, will be allowed to attend the funeral.