Family asks for help catching Brighton Park hit-and-run driver

Efren Mendez, 73, was walking to church when he was struck Saturday.

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Efren Mendez, 73, (inset) was walking to church when he was hit by a Jeep near 44th Street and California Avenue.

Efren Mendez, 73, (inset) was walking to church when he was hit by a Jeep near 44th Street and California Avenue.

Family photo (inset); Chicago Police

Efren Mendez was walking to Mass at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Brighton Park on Saturday when a red Jeep Patriothit the 73-year-old.

Now his son is calling on the neighborhood to keep an eye out for the culprit.

“Somebody made our New Year’s very difficult. They elected to do the wrong thing, and they need to face what’s coming to them,” the victim’s eldest son, Carlos Mendez, 40, said Friday.

“We’re very upset. We’re pissed. And we’re not going to stay quiet.”

About 5:30 p.m. Dec. 28, a red Jeep Patriot with fog lights and rear tinted windows struck Efren Mendez at the intersection of 44th Street at California Avenue, according to police.

The Jeep drove away east on 44th Street and did not pull over at any point, police said.

Efren Mendez was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition and remained there as of Friday afternoon. He suffered a broken ankle, broken ribs and a fractured skull. And on Tuesday, doctors discovered a blood clot, his son said.

“He’s pretty responsive, but he’s in a lot of pain,” Carlos Mendez said. “It’s touch and go every day.”

Efren Mendez moved to Chicago in the 1970s from the Mexican state of Michoacán. He later became a homeowner and a U.S. citizen. The 73-year-old has three children and works as a punch press operator at Sundstrom Pressed Steel on the South Side.

“There were times in the first few days that he thought he was at work and had a work accident,” Carlos Mendez said. “Only in the last 24 hours did it start to seep into him that he was hit by a car. Yesterday, he asked me if they caught the person who did this to him and and I told him I was working on it.”

Anyone with information about this crash is asked to contact the Chicago Police Department’s Major Accident Investigation Unit at (312) 745-4521.

Carlos Ballesteros is a corps member of Report for America,a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.

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