Innocent bystander in coma after Oakland hit-and-run

A law student is charged with running down an innocent bystander with her car following an altercation with graffiti vandals in Oakland.
October 11, 2013 6:26:59 PM PDT
A young Oakland man lies in a coma following a hit-and-run accident last weekend. Police say 25-year-old James Roda was an innocent bystander, run down by 26-year-old Bay Area law student Meghan Zato.

Zato's lawyer tells us she may have overreacted and may have even panicked, but that she did not intend to hurt anyone. The victim's friends see it differently. Police do as well. In the meantime, Roda's friends are trying to help him.

Her lawyer says UC Hastings law student Meghan Zato was trying to get away from a situation where she had been attacked.

"All we're prepared to say is that she was beaten, she was robbed, her life was threatened, she left in a panic, and someone got hurt," said Jules Bonjour, Zato's attorney.

The 26-year-old Zato is out on bail, charged with assault with a deadly weapon for running down 25-year-old James Roda with her car. She could also face a DUI charge, pending the outcome of a blood test.

Police say Zato left the Ruby Room Bar on 14th Street Saturday night. Once outside, she saw some people spraying graffiti on a library wall and confronted them. Her lawyer says the group then turned on Zato.

Police say Zato got into her car and tried to run down the people she thought were her attackers, hitting bystander James Roda instead.

"He did go into surgery for swelling that was in his brain that wasn't going down," said Roda's friend, Rochelle Arucan.

The victim's friends told ABC7 News the Berkeley man is in critical condition, in a coma, with a severe head injury.

"Over the years, he's just blossomed into this amazing human being that just loves so unconditionally and loves to make everyone laugh," Arucan said.

The Original Red Onion in Alameda, where Roda works as a cook, has started a collection for him. So have his friends, who say he would do the same for them.

"We want to return the favor," said Alex Riddle, Roda's friend. "And, you know, just keep being hopeful and send him as much good energy as possible."

For information about an online donation site, click here. For a link to the Support James Roda Facebook page, click here.

A pre-trial hearing for Zato is set for November 6.


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