Police: Driver arrested after striking cyclist, 69, and fleeing the scene

Dezhi Luo, 69, speaking with first responders after a driver ran him down then fled Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. Photo: Michelle Luo

Police arrested a Berkeley driver Saturday morning after she ran down a 69-year-old man on his bicycle, leaving him with broken ribs and other injuries, then fled, according to police and community reports.

Dezhi Luo was riding his bike down Gilman Street toward Monterey Market from his home on Evelyn Avenue when the crash took place, his daughter Michelle Luo told Berkeleyside. He was wearing his helmet. It was about 6:30 a.m.

“He loves to go to Monterey Market every day,” Michelle said. Her father has lived in the Berkeley neighborhood for 7-8 years.

According to Berkeley Police Lt. Peter Hong, the cyclist was eastbound on Gilman at Ordway Street when a driver, who was northbound on Ordway, turned left and ran into him. The cyclist had the right-of-way on Gilman, Hong said. (There are stop signs at Ordway on the north and south sides of the intersection.)


Michelle Luo told Berkeleyside her father swerved to the left to try to avoid the driver, who was in a red Hyundai Santa Fe SUV that was bearing down on him. But it appeared to him that the driver sped up before she struck him, according to Michelle. The driver hit the older man and dragged him and his bike under the Hyundai for a couple of seconds before coming to a stop.

Her father later told her, crying, that all he could think in those moments was, “This is how I’m going to die. I’m never going to see my family again.”

The anecdote was particularly striking, Luo told Berkeleyside, because her father rarely cries.

Her father’s bicycle after a hit-and-run driver struck it. Photo: Michelle Luo

As he was dragged, Dezhi Luo lifted his neck to hold it off the ground to try to limit his injuries. He was able to free himself from the bike and roll away, she said.

The driver parked, Luo said, and got out of the Hyundai as a jogger appeared who had seen what happened. The jogger asked the driver, who was on her cellphone, if she was calling police. The driver said she was, according to Luo.

The driver then yanked the bike out from beneath the vehicle, Luo said. This upset her father, who yelled to the driver that she shouldn’t move the bike. He wanted to preserve the evidence at the scene until police came. But the woman ignored him, Luo said. The driver then got back into the Hyundai and drove away.

Her father and the jogger initially thought the woman was going to park on a side street to wait for police. But that didn’t happen, Luo told Berkeleyside. The woman drove off, despite the jogger’s attempts to stop her.

Fortunately, the elder Luo was able to get clear photographs with his cellphone of the woman and her Hyundai, including her license plate, which he shared with police, his daughter said.

Officers went to the woman’s home — which is on Ordway just south of where the crash took place, according to public records — and arrested her at 11:40 a.m., said Hong. According to police, the cyclist sustained major injuries in the crash and was admitted to the hospital.

According to jail records online, the driver’s name is Elise Priebe. The 56-year-old was arrested on suspicion of hit-and-run causing injury and is being held at Berkeley Jail. Her arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday at Wiley Manuel Courthouse and her bail is $50,000.

“This is how I’m going to die. I’m never going to see my family again,” Dezhi Luo thought as a driver dragged him and his bike up the road Saturday. Photo: Michelle Luo

Michelle Luo said her father, who was clearly shaken, had called her at 6:36 a.m. saying, “Come here, I got hit by a car.” She also lives in the neighborhood, so she was able to rush to the scene.

In addition to multiple broken ribs on his left side, he also sustained shoulder and knee injuries, she said. He’ll likely be at Highland Hospital for several days for observation.

Neighborhood resident Alan Tobey, who initially alerted Berkeleyside to the crash, said this was just the latest in a series of what he believes are “preventable collisions” on Gilman that the city could do more to address. Tobey said neighbors have been trying for more than two years to replace a two-way stop sign with a four-way stop at Peralta Avenue, a block from Saturday’s crash.

The City Council approved the idea, in concept, in 2017, he said, but it has not received a budget allocation pending a traffic analysis. Tobey said he’s about ready to do something about the issue himself.

“All we need is two stop signs and a bucket of paint,” he said.