HENRY COUNTY, Ga. - Officials confirmed they have made an arrest in the hit-and-run death of a Henry County police officer helping a stranded driver.
The officer, Elgin Daniel, 53, was helping a driver who ran out of gas on North Henry Boulevard, near the Starlite skate center in Stockbridge, at about 6:40 p.m. Monday, police said.
Authorities arrested Ruben Marin-Garibay, 43, of Stockbridge, Tuesday and charged him with vehicular homicide, serious injury by vehicle, failure to maintain lane and hit and run.
Police investigators said they were happy to make such a quick arrest in the case.
"We're obviously grieving here at the police department for officer Daniel, but to be able to make an arrest in this case brings us some relief and we're very pleased to be able to announce that we have made an arrest," Maj. Jason Bolton with the Henry County Police Department said.
Marin-Garibay was denied bond Wednesday. A preliminary hearing is set for him next month.
Gordon Jarrett witnessed the incident Monday night. He told Channel 2's Eric Philips he was on his way to his Stockbridge apartment when his red Ford Mustang ran out of gas, coming to a stop in the center lane on North Henry Boulevard. Daniel and John Cook, a roadside assistance worker, were helping him put gas in the car when someone slammed into the two men and kept going.
"I was standing behind the car. They were standing on the side of the car. The next thing I saw, there were two bodies going through the air," Jarrett said. "If I ain't mistaken, they did slow down, then they just took off."
Channel 2 Action News obtained security camera video from a nearby Maaco Body Shop showing the traffic along the street 138 seconds before the crash. It also shows what appears to be light from Officer Daniel's flashlight as it was knocked away at the moment of impact.
Maaco owner Myron Horton gave the video to police.
"They were able to take that and record it, and I think they've enhanced it," said Horton. "Through that and some witnesses, they were able to put together a description of the vehicle."
"We feel pretty confident that this individual would have known he struck two individuals and continued down the road," said Jason Bolton of the Henry County Police Department.
Both victims were transported by ambulance to Atlanta Medical Center with serious injuries, officials said. Both were taken to surgery, but the officer did not survive.
Donna Strickland is a manager at Maaco and knew Daniel personally. The officer came by her home this weekend to take a report on some wild dogs running loose through her neighborhood.
"I hope they catch this person," said Strickland. "I hope he gets what he deserves. He left two people to die and one did, unfortunately. I hope he gets what's coming to him."
The roadside assistance worker, 58-year-old John Cook, is in serious condition, but family members said he is talking in the hospital.
Doctors told the family that Cook may have some brain swelling, and they are doing tests on him here to make sure he doesn’t have an internal bleeding.
“He tried to get up, but he couldn’t get up,” said Cook’s nephew, Chauncey Davis.
Davis is like a son to Cook. Davis told Channel 2’s Craig Lucie that when he went to visit his uncle at Atlanta Medical Center, Cook told him about the crash.
“The actual impact knocked him all the way to his car. You are talking about maybe 15 feet,” said Davis.
Davis described his uncle’s injuries to Lucie.
“He can’t move his left side, left shoulder or his head, and he has abrasions on his face, his forehead and his nose. For the most part, he’s beat up pretty bad,” he said.
Cook works for Qik Pik Roadside Assistance as a roadside technician. His colleagues told Lucie they know they have a dangerous job, but it was one Cook enjoyed because helping people is what they say he loved to do.
“It’s a shock, you know. It’s a shock. He always has a helping hand. He’s nice. He’s courteous. He’s respectful. You know, just a great guy,” said Joiheedah Gibson.
Herman Witherspoon said Cook started working at Qik Pik more than two years ago, but he has a known him and his family since he was a child.
“We try to tell everybody that if you are going out there and working, be mindful of where you’re at -- your location and everything going on around you, and watch out for yourself because anything can happen at any given moment, just like with John,” said Witherspoon.
Cook told Davis he didn’t feel unsafe because an officer was there helping him. They are hoping the driver responsible does the right thing.
“I hope the gentleman has enough guts and courage to turn themselves in, man or woman I guess,” said Witherspoon.
Daniel's former colleagues, meanwhile, are also among the many grieving his loss.
Before joining the Henry County Police Department, he worked as a DeKalb County Police officer for 25 years.
Officers from his 1985 academy class told Channel 2's Erica Byfield Daniel was a leader who refused to let people fail.
"More than anything I can say he loved his job and he was a family man," said DeKalb County Assistant Chief Annette Williams.
"We are just devastated by it, he was just a nice guy," Forsyth Sheriff's Office Commander Dan Jagoe said.
Jagoe and Williams both said they'll never forget how quiet yet friendly Daniel was.
"I'll just remember him with a big smile on his face and a soft spoken voice and great spirit, he's just a great guy and he’s going to be missed," Jagoe said.
Daniel retried as a lieutenant from the DeKalb police in 2010.
DeKalb police lowered the flags at its headquarters building in Tucker in Daniel's honor.
Jagoe and Williams told Byfield they weren't surprised Daniel lost his life trying to help a stranded motorist.
"I know that he died doing something that enjoyed doing, trying to help," Williams said.
DeKalb police plan to send its Honor Guard to Daniel's funeral.