SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – San Francisco police have identified the car they believe was used to run down a Cal Fire firefighter in the city’s Richmond District early Thanksgiving morning and are asking for the public’s help in finding it.

Investigators believe that the vehicle, which police describe as a black 2001 Mazda CX-7 with California license plate 6SYV525, was driven by Eduardo Esquivel.

Esquivel, 22, was arrested late Tuesday night on suspicion of intentionally striking 29-year-old Albert Bartal near the intersection of Ninth Avenue and Geary Boulevard around 3:45 a.m. last Thursday, police said.

The incident began as an altercation between the two men at a Jack in the Box restaurant at 11th Avenue and Geary Boulevard.

The two men were separated and both left the restaurant. According to police, while Bartal walked to a gas station two blocks away, Esquivel allegedly got into a car, drove to the gas station and struck him.

Bartal was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where he remains with life-threatening injuries. He has worked for the past five years as a Cal Fire seasonal firefighter and is also an Iraq war veteran.

Esquivel was arrested late Tuesday in South San Francisco after investigators released surveillance video and photos from the restaurant and a San Francisco police officer identified him from the footage.

The Mazda, which is registered to a rental car company, likely has front-end damage and may have been taken to an auto repair shop, possibly in Vallejo or San Mateo County, where Esquivel has known ties, police said.

Anyone with information about Mazda’s whereabouts is encouraged to call the Police Department’s anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.

Bartal’s mother, Patricia Bartal, released a statement Wednesday saying she was “relieved to learn that a suspect has been apprehended” in the case.

She said her son is “a kind, thoughtful, hard-working man” who has “a long road ahead” in his recovery.

A relief fund has been set up for Bartal and his family. People may make donations to account No. 1379608 at the San Francisco Police Credit Union at 2550 Irving St., CA 94122.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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