Texas sheriff's corporal arrested in hit-and-run that killed father of 7 on 215 Fwy in Riverside

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Wednesday, August 16, 2023
Texas sheriff's corporal arrested for deadly hit-and-run in Riverside
A Texas sheriff's department has arrested one of its own deputies in connection with a deadly hit-and-run in Southern California.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- A Texas sheriff's department has arrested one of its own deputies in connection with a fatal hit-and-run in Southern California.

Giovanni Ceja, 31, of San Antonio, was arrested for a hit and run that killed a father of seven as he was refilling his car along the side of the 215 Freeway in Riverside early on the morning of Aug. 7.

Gilberto Sotelo of Lake Elsinore had stopped around 1:45 a.m. in his Chevrolet Silverado and pulled over to the shoulder because he ran out of gas. His family members said the car had recently undergone repairs but it had a broken gas gauge.

He was refilling it with gas when he was struck by a vehicle - later identified as a Honda SUV - that drifted onto the shoulder. Investigators later alleged the suspect was intoxicated at the time of the crash.

The driver fled the scene, leaving pieces of the vehicle behind.

And while waiting for emergency crews to arrive, a homeless person pickpocketed Sotelo's body, according to family members, taking his cellphone and credit cards and trying to use them a short time later.

The CHP says its investigation, aided by media reports and tips from the public, led them to a Honda Ridgeline at a repair shop in Riverside on Aug. 9. That led them to identify Ceja as the alleged driver.

The Bexar County Sheriff's Department took Ceja into custody on Aug. 14 after being contacted by the Riverside County Sheriff's Office.

Giovanni Ceja of San Antonio has been arrested in connection with a hit-and-run that killed Gilberto Sotelo, a father of seven, on the 215 Freeway in Riverside.
Bexar County Sheriff's Office

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar confirmed on Tuesday that Ceja was a 5-year veteran of his department, located in the San Antonio area, but resigned after the arrest.

He was reportedly on vacation in Southern California at the time of the crash and then returned to work afterward without informing his own department about the incident, even when he started answering questions from Southern California investigators.

"Quite frankly, I'm furious," Salazar said.

Salazar described the arrest at a press conference on Tuesday. Once he was contacted by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department about the warrant for one of his own employees, he called Ceja to an office to place him in custody. Ceja had reported to work that day.

"I directed him to a side room where I immediately handed him an orange jail uniform, had him remove his blue uniform," Salazar said. "Changed him out, placed him under arrest. And then asked him if he would prefer to resign or was he gonna put me through having to terminate him."

He said Ceja chose to resign on the spot. They removed his cuffs and allowed him to write his letter of resignation, then cuffed him again.

"It was accepted and he has now been dishonorably discharged from the sheriff's office."

"He chose to continue to come to work as if he did not have a care in the world, and act like it didn't happen," Salazar added. "And now he's wearing orange and he's being booked at the jail he came to work at this morning."

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar expresses anger after his department arrested one of their own deputies in connection with a fatal hit-and-run in Southern California.

Ceja is now awaiting extradition from Texas on charges that are expected to include murder, manslaughter with gross intoxication, felony driving under the influence causing injury and felony hit and run.

Salazar said Ceja had borrowed the car from a relative and then returned it the next day, making up a false story about why it was damaged.

Sotelo was a married father with seven children. His brother says Gilberto's wife and children were in another vehicle at the time and witnessed the crash.

The victim's family is now raising money through a GoFundMe page.