LANCASTER – A 39-year-old man who died after being hit by a car in Lancaster on Saturday was not homeless, as authorities initially believed. Justin Rhodes was an Army veteran who did two tours in Iraq and had been suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder for years, according to his family.
“Those tours in Iraq really messed him up. He was not the same person when he came home. He has left behind a wife and two children and an extended family that loved him. He will be missed by us all,” his aunt wrote in an email to The AV Times.
Rhodes died at the scene of the collision, which occurred around 4:02 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5, on Lancaster Boulevard just west of Valley Central Way, Lt. Mark Pope of the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station told City News Service.
A woman stopped her car to allow what she believed to be homeless people cross the street when a man got up from a bus bench, hit her car, grabbed her door handle and tried to get in, a sheriff’s deputy told a source at the scene. The man was fatally injured when the woman tried to drive away, according to the deputy.
“Something regarding the accident account does not make sense,” the victim’s aunt stated in the email. “If he was trying to get in this woman’s car door, that means, he was on the side of her car. If that is the case, I would expect a foot or leg injury, not a fatal injury. If he left one side of the car to go to another, he possibly could have been leaving the scene or going to the other door. Either way, she could have waited until he was clear of the front end before speeding off…. I pray that they thoroughly investigate this accident and provide us more details. That will not bring him back to his kids and wife, but we need some more answers.”
Sheriff’s officials did not identify the female driver, and an official statement on the circumstances surrounding the collision was not released by the sheriff’s department. No further information on the incident was available as of Thursday, Aug. 10.
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