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Nicaraguan Immigrant Asks For Help To Bury Children Struck By Driver

July 15, 1988

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ A Nicaraguan immigrant pleaded for financial help Thursday to bury his son and niece, killed by a speeding hit-and-run driver who plowed into a group of about 20 children crossing a street outside a school.

Police said the driver was angry because his friends made him late to work.

″We are asking for help for the funeral for the babies because we don’t have the money for that,″ said Rene Zuniga.

Zuniga, an unemployed janitor who fled Nicaragua eight months ago to find a better life, ran from his apartment to the side of his 10-year-old son, Rene Zuniga Jr., after the boy was struck Tuesday in a crosswalk outside an elementary school, witnesses said.

Rene Jr. and his 8-year-old cousin, Carla Rosales, were pronounced dead at a hospital. Carla’s 6-year-old sister, Angela, who also was struck, was in good condition Thursday at Children’s Hospital. A 12-year-old crossing guard, Magalia Dominquez, was treated for a broken collarbone and released from the hospital Wednesday.

Michael Dwayne Brandon, 21, of Oakland, a temporary janitor with Bay Area Rapid Transit, was charged Thursday in San Leandro-Hayward Municipal Court with two counts of murder and two counts of hit-and-run driving.

Police allege he was speeding up to 50 mph when he plowed into about 20 children.

A plea hearing was set for July 25. He is being held without bail.

Zuniga, whose other son, Christopher, 9, was unhurt, said through an interpreter that he left his wife behind when he fled political pressures in his homeland.

″I don’t know if my wife will be able to come to the funeral. ... We don’t have money for that either,″ said Zuniga, who shares the apartment with his brother and uncle.

Brandon had picked up two friends and stopped at a neighborhood store, police said. While he was inside, his companions decided to drive the car around the block.

When they returned, according to police Officer Michael Oliveira, Brandon shouted: ″I’m gonna show you. I’m going to teach you what gets me. I don’t like to be late for work.″

Brandon swerved around a car that was stopped while the young crossing guard helped children across the street, police said.

″A car was coming fast, and then all the kids were walking across the street,″ said Janet Lopez, 7. ″And then they were hit. Bam. There was blood. Some people were crying.″

The driver hit a parked car and the trio stopped to look at the injured children before fleeing, the driver in the car and the passengers on foot.

An Alameda police officer, in Oakland to make an unrelated arrest, stood in the path of the car with his revolver drawn and jumped out of the way at the last moment as the car sped by, said Lt. Jim Hahn.

Brandon was taken into custody at his house Tuesday evening.

Cora Rosales, mother of the Carla and Angela, watched her 2-year-old son Thursday while awaiting word on Angela.

″We came here for a better future for the children, a better education for them,″ she said.

She and her husband and mother, who work as janitors, have shared her mother’s apartment in the working-class neighborhood since arriving three years ago. Zuniga lives in the apartment below.

″We raised those children like brothers and sisters, they were that close,″ said their gramdmother, Wilma Loaisiga.

All had been warned repeatedly about the dangers of traffic.

″We always told them, ‘Look before you cross the street, always hold hands when you cross the street.’ ... Christopher he was always in front or behind, he wouldn’t hold hands. He was the only one not hurt,″ said Loaisiga.

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