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08/08/2006

Suspected hit-and-run driver arrested in death of Calif. officer

The Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. — A 47-year-old man was arrested Monday in connection with the hit-and-run crash that killed a California Highway Patrol officer.

Russell Rodrigues, of Oakland, turned himself in around noon and was booked into Santa Rita Jail in Dublin on charges of felony hit-and-run and vehicular manslaughter, according to the CHP.

Authorities launched a manhunt for the hit-and-run driver late Saturday, after Officer Brent Clearman, 33, was killed by a champagne-colored Buick LeSabre that slammed into him while he inspected an accident scene on an Interstate 880 ramp. The suspect then fled in the vehicle.

Rodrigues led officers Monday to the Buick LeSabre believed to be involved in the crash, said CHP Sgt. Les Bishop. The car, which was parked behind an Alameda apartment complex, had damage consistent with the evidence found at the crash site, authorities said.

Judy Rodrigues said her brother, who worked as a clerk at the county's Glenn Dyer Jail for 19 years, left the scene because he "basically panicked."

"We're sorry to the victim's family. It was an accident," she said.

Meanwhile, authorities ruled out any connection between the hit-and-run and a nearby carjacking that occurred minutes earlier.

Clearman, a decorated Marine sharpshooter and Iraq war veteran, was the seventh on-duty CHP officer killed since September.

A memorial service was planned for 11 a.m. Thursday at the Sleep Train Pavilion in Concord.

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