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Grieving father recalls son killed in hit-and-run crash in Denver

Jake Johnson died in hit-and-run crash July 30 near East 40th Avenue and Pena Boulevard.

DENVER — The father of a man killed in a hit-and-run crash last month remembered him Wednesday for his love of music and his compassion for others – and said he hoped his family’s tragedy might spur new efforts to curb dangerous driving.

Jake Johnson, 30, died about 12:25 a.m. July 30 when a car slammed into him on East 40th Avenue near Pena Boulevard. Police and prosecutors suspect drinking and high speed were factors in the crash.

Johnson, who was newly married, was working a second job delivering pizzas part time.

“I could go to the encyclopedia or dictionary right now and couldn't come up with enough words to describe him,” his father, Steven Johnson, told 9Wants to Know.

An example of the kind of person he was occurred the day before he died when he decided – at the urging of multiple family members – to quit his second job, which he took on in addition to his full-time work at a fireplace company to make a little extra money.

“He said, ‘Dad, I gave notice today,’ ” Steven Johnson said, recalling their last phone call. “He started laughing. I'm like, ‘Why are you laughing?’ … ‘I gave them two weeks’ notice and they asked for three.’ … ‘Please tell me you didn't say yes.’ ‘Yes, Dad, because that third week they had so many people off they need help.’ ”

RELATED: Car club president accused in fatal hit and run, 2 other passengers injured

Steven Johnson remembered his son’s love of music, both the way he came up with bands and songs no one had heard of and the fun he had singing karaoke with his family.

“One night, we were all together, and his uncle and his brother and I were singing a song, ‘Wild Horses,’ by the Rolling Stones,” Steven Johnson said.

During these impromptu sessions, Jake Johnson had a rule: Never repeat a song.

“That one night we were singing that song, and he said it was the greatest version of that song he’d ever heard, and he asked us to sing it again, which we did,” Steven Johnson said. “And then he asked us to sing it again. And of course, we're thinking we're rock stars at this point.

“So that was just how sweet he was. I know he was making us feel better about our lousy voices, but it's just how he was.”

Through July, 398 people have died on Colorado roads in 2022 – and the number of traffic fatalities has climbed for three straight years. The 691 people who died on Colorado roads in 2021 was the highest number since 2002. That is an increase of 55% more traffic fatalities in 2021 than in 2011.

Suspect was on probation

The man accused of killing Johnson, 23-year-old Taylor Lindsey, is being held on a $50,000 cash-only bail on suspicion of vehicular homicide, two counts of vehicular assault, leaving the scene of an accident involving death, and two counts of leaving the scene of an accident involving serious bodily injury.

RELATED: Hit-and-run suspect organized a 'drag meet' prior to fatal crash, prosecutors say

Lindsey, the leader of a car club known as Drag Kings Colorado, is scheduled to be back in court Aug. 24.

At the time of the crash, Lindsey was on probation from a December 2020 assault case in which he was accused of attacking another man and firing a gun into an occupied vehicle. One of those bullets hit inches from the head of the man behind the wheel of that other vehicle, according to court documents.

In that case, according to court documents obtained by 9Wants to Know, prosecutors charged Lindsey with four counts of attempted first-degree murder, one count of second-degree assault, two counts of felony menacing, two counts of felony menacing, one count of illegal discharge of a firearm, and four counts of using a weapon in a violent crime.

In an agreement with prosecutors, Lindsey pleaded guilty to the assault charge and all the other counts were dismissed.

A judge sentenced Lindsey on April 11, issuing a suspended 8-year prison term and giving him four years of probation.

On June 30, Lindsey was riding in a car that was stopped by an Adams County Sheriff’s deputy. According to court documents, Lindsey smelled of alcohol and “admitted to having multiple shots of alcohol” – a violation of a protection order issued in the Denver case.

He was charged with violation of a protection order and is due in court on that case Aug. 29.

“He shouldn't even have been on the road,” Steven Johnson said. “He shouldn't be out there able to hurt anybody.”

When Lindsey appeared in court to be advised of the charges he faces in the fatal crash, Steven Johnson and other family members were there.

“It was tough to look at him, but my son would want me to be a humanitarian first,” Steven Johnson said. “As angry as I was, I also know there’s a human being in there somewhere. And I'm sure he would take it back if he could.”

While he waits for the court case to play out, Steven Johnson said he hopes that his son’s death might lead to new efforts to curb the kind of dangerous driving that killed him.

He said he isn’t sure whether that could be accomplished with legislation, a public education campaign or some combination of those and other ideas.

And he said he had a message for the members of car clubs: “Your passion for cars are awesome, but we don't need drugs, we don't need alcohol involved, and we certainly don't need to be racing them on public interstate or any roads. Period.”

Contact 9Wants to Know investigator Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story: kevin.vaughan@9news.com or 303-871-1862.

Data producer Zack Newman contributed to this story.

Fund Established

Jake Johnson’s family has established a fund to help his wife, Ivy, with financial stability in the wake of his death.

RELATED: Suspect in deadly hit-and-run crash in Denver arrested

RELATED: At least 3 people killed in hit-and-run crashes in 2 weeks

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