St. Paul police on Sunday afternoon announced that they have arrested two people in the hit-and-run death of Jose Hernandez Solano, a beloved employee at Brasa Rotisserie who was biking home from work when he was hit late last month.
Just hours earlier, more than 50 bicyclists gathered at Brasa on Grand Avenue in St. Paul for a ride in memory of Hernandez Solano, who died Dec. 7 at Regions Hospital.
Although the arrests were made Friday and Saturday, the riders hadn’t heard the news when they began the 1.4-mile trek to Grand and W. 7th Street, where Hernandez Solano was hit shortly after midnight on Nov. 26.
Police said a 28-year-old St. Paul man was arrested Saturday on suspicion of criminal vehicular homicide. A 47-year-old South St. Paul woman, the registered owner of the vehicle, was arrested Friday on suspicion of aiding an offender. The Star Tribune generally does not name suspects before they are charged.
Some of the riders Sunday knew Hernandez Solano, while others simply wanted to honor the man they’d learned of only in the past three weeks.
“Look at all these beautiful people,” said David Fernandez, a friend and co-worker of Hernandez. “I’m pretty sure my friend Jose would be pretty happy right now.”
Fernandez said he and Hernandez Solano biked every day; a favorite route was along the Mississippi, where they’d sit on a bench and talk about life, family and bikes.
Hernandez, 52, had lived in the United States, working to support his family in Mexico, for about 17 years. He’d worked at Brasa for about a year.
He was a stickler for safety, his friends said, and always wore a helmet and used lights. The riders Sunday took the same precautions, wearing helmets over hats, neon-yellow jerseys and lights. Some riders pedaled fat-tire bikes designed for the snow, others more common bikes.
At their destination, they gathered around a “ghost bike,” painted white and crowned with flowers. Riders were silent there for a time, then a few spoke.
Melissa Wenzel of St. Paul, a member of St. Paul Women on Bikes, didn’t know Hernandez but said she felt compelled to come to the ride Sunday.
“I’m here because I feel I have to,” she said. “Just to know that somebody was following the rules of the road, was biking home from work, things that we all do on a regular basis, and still got hit and died from it.”
Dorian Grilley of Mahtomedi didn’t know Hernandez Solano, either. But he was seriously injured while riding his bike eight years ago and spent three weeks in the hospital. Grilley said he works with Vision Zero, a group with a goal of zero traffic deaths.
Fernandez worked with immigration officials to get a visa for Hernandez’s son, Jose Adrian, to come to Minnesota last week to claim his father’s body and return with it to Mexico. Hernandez Solano also has two daughters and a 2-year-old granddaughter in Mexico.