Tampa Police seek pick-up truck driver involved in fatal hit-and-run in Ybor City

36-year-old Jatha Royal, Jr. killed in crash
Posted at 12:38 AM, Feb 27, 2017

Tampa Police are trying to track down a driver who hit and killed a 36-year-old pedestrian in Ybor City early Sunday morning.

Two surveillance photos caught a Ford pickup truck, thought to be a late 1990s or early 2000s model in the area where the crash happened, near 15th Street and 15th Avenue. Jatha Royal, Jr., was struck and killed. The driver fled the scene.

"I'm going to plead with you people that whoever was driving that vehicle that hit my son, that was wrong," said Jatha Royal, Sr., the victim's father.

Royal's father and namesake is devastated by losing his only son. He talked to Jatha Sunday morning, and drove to Ybor City around 3:00 a.m. to pick him up after working as a street vendor for a festival. But because of heavy traffic, he couldn't get there.

"I told him I'm not coming. Why don't you go ahead and catch a cab," said Royal.

It would be the last time they'd talk. Jatha apparently tried to walk home and was killed in a hit-and-run crash just a few blocks away.

"What I love most about my son...I tried to raise him proper, and to do the right things. And he's a hard working fella," Royal said.

He's now holding onto faith and family, and hoping the driver who hit his son will come forward.

"I'm asking you to turn yourself in. Be an honorable person so we can close this out," Royal said.

If you recognize the pickup truck involved, you're urged to contact Tampa Police or Crime Stoppers.

Family members are now hoping to secure funds to get Jatha Royal, Jr. returned to North Carolina, so he can be buried beside his mother and other relatives. You can help the family through their Go Fund Me page.