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Community Leader Killed In Road Rage Crash While Painting Over Graffiti

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A beloved San Diego activist was hit and killed by a car in while painting over graffiti on the side of the road.

Maruta Gardner, 69, was painting over graffiti in Mission Beach when she was hit by a car that was trying to pass another vehicle, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. Around 5:45 p.m., Gardener was near the entrance to the jetty on San Diego Place and Mission Boulevard, when a black Toyota Corolla passed a white Ford Mustang on the right, went up on the shoulder and hit Gardner. According to San Diego Police, the driver of the Toyota then pulled into a nearby parking lot for a few minutes and then sped away.

Shortly afterward, officers stopped the Toyota and arrested the driver, 23-year-old Jonathan Domingo Garcia. He was booked on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, DUI and hit and run. It is believed he was involved in a road rage altercation with the driver of the Mustang whose identity is not known.

Gardner suffered massive head injuries and was taken to Scripps La Jolla hospital, where she died on Saturday after being taken off life support.

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Gardner was a former educator and school principal, and well known in the Mission Beach community as an active volunteer, according to CBS 8. Affectionately known as the "Graffiti Lady," she was known for riding her bicycle, carrying supplies that she would use to paint over graffiti. She also served on the Mission Beach Town Council and a city planning committee.

This past November, the San Diego City Council dedicated a day in honor of Gardner for her decades of volunteer service.