FRESNO, Calif. - The community of Fort Washington Elementary School is grieving, following the death of the school's vice principal, 43-year old Gavin Gladding. The California Highway Patrol said Gladding was jogging on Friant Road around 6pm on Sunday morning, when the driver of a pick-up truck hit him and drove off. Investigators continue the hunt for that driver.
On Monday morning, students were seen putting up signs and mementos at Fort Washington Elementary, even before school began.
Lauren Scheidt used to go to Fort Washington. She is now in the 7th grade, and remembers Gladding well.
"It was just nice having him like, there, and his nice, like, warm smile," said Scheidt.
Scheidt and other students, like Ryan Garcia, said Gladding was a mentor who was always friendly and kind.
Garcia commented, "He was always very understanding, willing to help, help you learn if you did something wrong and if you needed to talk to somebody, I would go to him."
Gladding had been with the Clovis Unified School District since 2005, and became the vice principal at Fort Washington three years ago.
CUSD spokesperson Kelly Avants said it's been a day of mourning.
She said, "We have a team that focuses on grief counseling. Our school psychologists have been on campus today, again were here yesterday as well for staff."
The CHP is focused on finding the driver who allegedly swerved off Friant Road early Sunday morning and hit Gladding while he was jogging.
CHP public information officer Victor Taylor said, "The truck, actually from some witness statements, the truck stopped momentarily, backed out, and continued westbound on Friant Road."
Gladding leaves behind a wife and two children, and many students who have nothing but fond memories.
"We liked him a lot," ended Scheidt.
The Gladding Family released a statement on Monday that said, "On Sunday September 16th around 6:00 a.m. Gavin Gladding was running on Old Friant Road training for a marathon when he was struck by a truck in a hit and run accident. The driver immediately fled the scene. The family is currently working with all Fresno County and city law enforcement. The information we currently have on the vehicle is it's a black 2000-2006 GMC Sierra pickup truck with a shattered right-side passenger window, missing side mirror, and possibly missing the front GMC grill emblem. Gavin was a loving husband, father, son, brother and friend to many. He was a beloved teacher and educator in Clovis Unified since 2005. He has touched many children's lives as their teacher and as the Vice Principal at Fort Washington Elementary. If anyone has any information regarding the vehicle or knows anything, please come forward and contact the CHP communication center at 559-262-0400."
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