A 34-year-old man has died after becoming the victim of two hit-and-run crashes in a week, and his mother is asking for anyone with information — no matter how small— to come forward with information so the family can find justice.
When the timing belt on Rickey Chapman’s 1999 Ford Mustang broke, he started using his bicycle to travel to and from his town of Rosamond, California. But with the front light of the bicycle broken, he was cautious about riding in the dark.
On the night of January 20, Rickey asked his mother, Rive Chapman, to follow him in her car with the flashers on as he rode home along the dirt path next to the North Sierra Highway. But when Rickey pulled up to his mother’s window to tell her something, a car slammed into the bicycle and sent the 34-year-old sliding down the pavement.
“Next thing I knew he was in the street screaming,” Rive tells PEOPLE. “I was stunned when I heard him screaming, I got out and ran over to him in the middle of the road, and I was waving my hands in the air to make sure he didn’t get hit again.”
Rickey — who celebrated a year of sobriety in December after years of battling addiction and homelessness — was able to walk away from that accident, though his bicycle was left mangled. In the commotion, Rive says she wasn’t able to get a good look at the vehicle as it sped away.
With his bicycle damaged, Rickey began walking home after visiting friends and family in the days after the crash. Then, on January 26, just six days after Rickey’s accident, Rive saw a report of a hit-and-run accident between a pedestrian and a vehicle on Sierra Highway on her local news website. She immediately thought of Rickey.
“I tried to get in touch with my son,” she recalls. “Three hours later, the same highway patrolman that was there during the first one, he came and told me that my son was hit. I couldn’t talk anymore, and I just started screaming. I called my sister and screamed at her that Rickey was dead.”
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Rive says police believe the vehicle that hit Rickey on the 26th was a large pickup truck or van, but they don’t have much else to go on for that collision or the one before it. The family has started a GoFundMe page to help out with funeral expenses.
“Everything has been a fog since, really,” Rive says. “I feel like a robot that’s numb. I’m here, but I’m not here.”
Rickey recently joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Los Angeles, which was a pivotal moment for the man who had spent much of the last few years trying to find stability. He recently received his certifications from Bakersfield College, Rive adds.
“Rickey was a happy-go-lucky type guy, a really hard worker,” she says of her son. “He loved animals, kids, and my family and friends, we all loved Rickey.”
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Rive says Monday was one of the first times she’s left home since Rickey’s death. She found herself in tears when coming across everyday items that reminded her of her son, such as milk at the grocery store, which brought back memories of Rickey pouring himself cereal in the mornings. But one of the starkest reminders is Rickey’s dark green Mustang, which sits unrepaired in her driveway.
“I don’t understand how people can hit somebody or anything, and just keep going? What kind of heart do they have, or conscience?” she says, as she struggles to grasp with how someone could flee such a tragic scene. “I don’t even have anger for the person that did it, I want justice. But, my thing is my son, he is gone.”