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Family members are grieving a 33-year-old man who police say was struck and killed by his own vehicle while attempting to stop thieves from stealing his work van in Anaheim.

Jose DeJesus Berrelleza, 33, was fatally hit in the 100 block of South Melinda Circle around 6:20 a.m. Tuesday, in an incident that was witnessed by relatives.

Berrelleza — who lived in Santa Ana but parked his work van in Anaheim — was talking with his father and brother-in-law outside the van when they say the thieves came down the street, got into the running van and began driving off. 

But Berrelleza tried to prevent them from getting away, apparently somehow getting onto the vehicle. At some point, relatives said they believe he was stabbed by someone in the van. He then fell off and got struck by his own vehicle. 

The Anaheim Police Department confirmed the victim confronted the suspects during the theft, saying in a statement they believed he attempted to do so “to prevent the loss of his livelihood.”

He died at the scene.

Berrelleza had a fiancee and an 8-year-old daughter. Family members told KTLA that the young girl still believes her father is coming back.

She’s been visiting the spot where he died Tuesday morning regularly, sitting there in a small chair and talking to him.

The little girl even wrote a note to him on the street in chalk.

“She woke up this morning and she said, ‘I’m going to go see my dad’ and she comes and sits there,” one family member said through tears. “It’s hard for us.” 

After the incident, the brother-in-law followed the van to a hotel, where authorities later located the stolen van and made three arrests.

Two of the suspects — 28-year-old Omar Sanchez and 21-year-old and Yesenia Escareno, both Anaheim residents — were arrested on suspicion of murder, carjacking and receiving a stolen property, according to police.

They said a third suspect, 32-year-old Adriana Gomez of Anaheim, was arrested on suspicion of being an accessory.

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By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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