SF Examiner file photoThe suit alleges that an officer used excessive force following an arrest.

Plea deal likely in fatal Pacifica hit-and-run

A San Bruno man who returned to the scene of a fatal crash in Pacifica on advice from his insurance company is “devastated” about the accident and wants to make amends, his attorney said Friday.

Leopoldo Tobilla, 58, of San Bruno is charged with a felony hit-and-run and a misdemeanor DUI in connection with the horrific late-night accident on state Route 35.

Tobilla’s case is scheduled for a pretrial conference today. His attorney, John Forsyth, and prosecutors hope to agree to a plea deal that would avoid a heart-wrenching trial.

“We’re thinking it’s going to resolve,” San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

After leaving a party Feb. 20, Tobilla struck 25-year-old pedestrian Scott Garrigan of Pacifica in his Mercedez on a poorly lit stretch of roadway.

Garrigan was allegedly intoxicated and illegally crossing.

Tobilla was not found at fault in the accident. But rather than stop and call 911 after hitting Garrigan, he drove home, talked to his wife and phoned his insurance company, prosecutors said.

An insurance agent told him to return to the crash scene. Tobilla did so and was arrested.

He claimed he had only had one beer, but investigators said he appeared intoxicated.
Tobilla’s blood alcohol level tested at .06 about an hour after the accident, below the legal limit of .08, Forsyth said.

“It’s a dark road, it’s 1:30 in the morning and all of a sudden there’s a young man in the middle of the road and you can’t stop in time,” Forsyth said. “He gave in to that most human of situations and he panicked.”

After Tobilla drove away, another driver ran over Garrigan’s body. The second driver called 911, but he also left before cops arrived, according to court documents. Four days later, the second driver went to a police station with his lawyer. He claimed he didn’t stay because “his passenger became ill and he became upset,” the court documents said.

Forsyth said he has advised Tobilla not to reach out to Garrigan’s family “out of respect.”
 
“My client and his family feel terrible for the Garrigan family,” Forsyth said.

Garrigan is described in his obituary as “generous and caring.” He had been on the waiting list to become a San Francisco police officer.

To help in that effort, he had enlisted into the Army and was scheduled to arrive at boot camp last summer.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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