ALAMEDA -- Customers at the The Original Red Onion on Park Street are continuing to donate money to help James Roda, the restaurant's cook who was seriously injured when a woman struck him with her car in Oakland as she was speeding down the street following an altercation with vandals.
The 26-year-old Roda was an innocent bystander and was crossing 14th Street when he was struck Oct. 5, his friends say. He was thrown about 100 feet and suffered severe head injuries, including brain swelling.
"Everyday, all day, people are making donations," said Ramon Clemons, the Red Onion's general manager. "He's a great guy and very friendly. Lots of people are looking for ways to help him."
Roda had worked at the restaurant for more than a year before he was injured. He also recently worked part-time at 3000 Broadway in Oakland.
"We became close about two or three months ago," Clemons said about Roda. "We would get together after work and sometimes play pool."
Among the places the restaurant workers frequented, Clemons said, was the Ruby Room, the bar near Lake Merritt that Roda had exited minutes before he was struck and injured.
Meghan Zato, 26, the driver who allegedly hit him, faces assault with a deadly weapon and other charges.
Zato was also in the Ruby Room a short time earlier and was driving toward a group of graffiti vandals who had attacked her after she confronted them for tagging a wall near the main branch of the Oakland Public Library, according to police.
She was driving on the wrong side of the road when she struck Roda, police said.
The lawyer representing Zato, a student at Hastings College of the Law, said she never intended to hit him or hurt anyone.
Staff writer David DeBolt contributed to this report. Contact Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him at Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.
Along with placing donation jars near the cash register at the Red Onion, James Roda's friends have set up a website to take donations to help cover his medical bills at https://www.wepay.com/donations/help-support-james.