Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are continuing to search for a hit-and-run driver involved in an early Saturday accident that left two people dead, including a toddler.
Charlotte resident Tony Gabriel, 26, died at the scene of the east Charlotte accident, as did an 18-month-old boy, according to police. The second passenger in Gabriels car, Brittany Massey, was hospitalized at Carolinas Medical Center with injuries that were not life-threatening. She is the toddlers mother.
Gabriels aunt, Natalie Gabriel Weddington of Charlotte, said she was shocked to hear the news.
Gabriel had met with his cousins earlier Friday, Weddington said. He was always with his family. He loved to be with his cousins, she said.
But much later, at around 2 a.m. Saturday at the intersection of North Sharon Amity and Albemarle roads, the driver of a black 2001 Ford Mustang hit the side of a Mazda sedan that Gabriel was driving, police said. The Mustang was going through a red light at a high speed and without its headlights on, witnesses told police.
After the crash, witnesses told police that the Mustang driver ran away and was seen fleeing toward the back of a nearby Cash America business. Police believe the driver was the only occupant of the Mustang.
Police described the suspect as a Hispanic man in his 20s, who is 5-foot-5 and has a medium build. The suspect was last seen wearing a white shirt and blue jeans, according to a police statement.
The Mustang, which is in CMPD custody, has a convertible top with two dark red racing stripes that run along the bumpers, hood, trunk and rear of the car. The vehicle also has red chrome double-blade windshield wipers with a South Carolina license tag of HTJ-844.
Police believe the car has frequently been seen around North Sharon Amity Road and Central Avenue.
Masseys condition at CMC was not available Saturday night. Her relatives in the Charlotte area could not be reached for comment, and police did not say where Massey was from.
Weddington said she believes Gabriel and Massey were just friends, and that he was not the father of the toddler.
Gabriel graduated from Vance High School, his aunt said, and enjoyed working for the family lawn care business. And despite his thin frame, she said he loved to eat.
His family called him T.J., and his friends called him T-Bird. Weddington said Gabriel was friendly and well-liked by many. She said Gabriel got joy from giving everyone in the family gift cards to T.G.I. Fridays last Christmas.
He wanted to see everybody happy, Weddington said.
Anyone with information about the crash or the suspect is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600 or CMPDs Major Crash Unit at 704-432-2169.
Hilary Trenda and researcher Marion Paynter contributed.