Placer High grad struck by hit-and-run driver

Auburn mayor offers $5,000 reward for information leading to arrest, conviction of suspect
By: Jenifer Gee Journal News Editor
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Police are searching for a driver who reportedly hit a Placer High graduate, causing severe spinal injury, and then fled the scene. An unknown driver hit 22-year-old Amanda Barnes while she was in a crosswalk in Emeryville in the early morning hours July 12, according to family and police. This week, her family, Auburn's mayor and Bay Area law enforcement are organizing a reward to anyone who might have information about the driver who hit Barnes and continued to drive without stopping. Barnes, a former Auburn resident and Placer High School graduate, was expected to undergo spinal surgery Tuesday to try and save part of her spine and movement, according to her sister Michele Barnes. Amanda and Michele Barnes as well as their sisters Danielle Barnes and Christina Elkins, all graduated from Placer High School. Christina currently lives in Colfax with her husband, Steve Elkins and their two children. The sisters’ mother, Debbie Ward, currently lives in Auburn and their father, Keith Barnes, is a Citrus Heights resident. Michele Barnes said her sister’s spine was severed as a result of the hit-and-run. “It’s really bad,” Michele Barnes said Monday from Highland General Hospital in Oakland. “She’s definitely never going to be able to walk again.” Michele Barnes said the surgery scheduled Tuesday is an attempt to stabilize part of Amanda Barnes’ spine so her sister’s paralysis will not spread from the waist up. “It’s going to be a pretty heavy surgery,” Michele Barnes said. “She has a lot of internal injuries so they were trying to wait for those to heal themselves a little before doing this surgery.” Amanda Barnes was walking home when the hit-and-run occurred at about 2:20 a.m. Tuesday in the 3600 block of Adeline Street in Emeryville, according to Officer Brian Head with the Emeryville Police Department. “She was legally within the cross walk, crossing when she was struck by a southbound SUV,” Head said. Head said there were other witnesses who watched the incident happen. “They all agree they saw the vehicle run through the intersection while she was in the middle of the crosswalk,” Head said. Head said investigators estimate the car was traveling between 30 mph and 40 mph when it hit Amanda Barnes and did not stop after it made impact with her. “(The driver) actually in fact almost broadsided another vehicle two blocks down,” Head said. Head said investigators have video surveillance of the hit-and-run. He said the vehicle is a dark-colored SUV but police are declining to release any additional information, such as the vehicle’s make and model, while the investigation is ongoing so as to not jeopardize the case. Head said some witnesses saw the driver but had a limited description. He said they do not know if there were any passengers in the vehicle. Michele Barnes said her sister was walking home after a late-night study session for a test at Ex’pression College for Digital Arts in Emeryville. Amanda’s boyfriend witnessed the incident but part of his view was obscured by a building as he was leaving a store, Michele Barnes said. She said he went to help the victim after seeing the hit. “He didn’t even know it was her,” Barnes said. “He went up to comfort (the victim) and didn’t realize it was her until she said, ‘Babe, help me.’ He went into shock.” Michele Barnes, who flew in from her home in Hawaii when she heard the news, said family from all over have gathered at the hospital to be there for their loved one. Initially, Barnes said they so far have $1,500 to offer as a reward. Head said the police department is helping organize the reward effort for anyone with information about the crime. Monday evening, Auburn Mayor Dr. Bill Kirby said he has guaranteed a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person who hit Barnes. Kirby said he hopes that a community fundraiser or series of fundraisers would be held to help contribute to that reward. Otherwise, he said he will pay the amount. “Anything I could do to help I told them I will,” Kirby said. In the meantime, Barnes said she and her family will be praying for Amanda’s recovery. She said she hopes others will do the same. “We would just like people to keep her in their thoughts and pray for her to get through all these surgeries,” Michele Barnes said. “We’re just glad to have her be alive to be honest. The police and doctors said they couldn’t believe she was alive based on what happened.” Reach Jenifer Gee at