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Fatal and serious injury hit-and-run crashes are up in Denver

Twenty-eight hit and run crashes have resulted in serious injuries since the start of 2021. How often are they solved?

DENVER — Carolyn Jackson Wasserman says she prays every day that someone will come forward with information that might find her son’s killer.

Christopher Patton was riding a scooter in downtown Denver near Arapahoe and 14th Street in downtown Denver in early September 2020 when a driver of a small sedan hit and killed him.

A month later, the Denver Police Department (DPD) released photos of four people of interest in the crash, but haven’t released another update since.

“There’s very little information that could be given to us other than what we were able to get from the people who were on scene when it happened,” Eleza Jackson, Patton’s sister, said in an interview from her home in California Monday.

“You want feel like you’re fighting for your loved one and you’re doing everything you can but when your hands are tied legally there isn’t all that much you can do.”

RELATED: Denver Police ask for help identifying persons of interest in deadly scooter hit-and-run

DPD traffic Sgt. Michael Farr said he couldn’t comment further on the investigation into Patton’s case Monday because he said it is still an active investigation.

Farr did acknowledge people leaving the scene of crashes continues to be a growing problem in the Mile High City.

“[Drivers will] simply offer, ‘I thought I was wanted,' ‘I was scared,' ‘I just freaked out,' ‘I wasn’t sure if I had insurance,’” Farr said.

“A lot of the reasons why they run could be administrative. They make the matter worse by having done that. You take what would be a city level careless driving or red light ticket, and you turn it into a misdemeanor.”

Or, drivers who hit or kill someone turn a crash into a felony by fleeing.

According to Denver Police records, 28 hit-and-run crashes have resulted in serious injuries since the start of the year. That number is up 24% compared to the three-year average of crashes.

Early Monday morning, a man in a wheelchair crossing Broadway near 3rd Avenue became the tenth person killed in the city in a hit-and-run crash since the beginning of the year, a significant percent of the total number of people killed on Denver roads.

RELATED: Man in wheelchair killed in hit-and-run Monday morning, police say

“It’s we’re talking about 10 of our 59 or 58 fatals this year are hit-and-runs… that’s a big problem,” Farr said. “That should be zero.”

Denver Police couldn’t provide percentage of hit-and-run cases solved. Farr said in the past the number has hovered around 60% of cases coming to some kind of resolution, whether it be an arrest or a citation.

“One of the biggest things is these are typically stranger on stranger crimes, meaning you’re just heading out to 7-Eleven to get a big gulp and you don’t make it because you were hit by somebody en route,” Farr said.

The lack of physical evidence and often times the lack of witnesses makes solving these cases more difficult.

“Quite frankly, for a hit-and-run crash, the best evidence to move that case forward that we can get is a license plate number that is attached to that vehicle,” Farr said.

Police don’t have any license plate information for the truck that hit the man Monday morning in the Baker neighborhood. Police say they’re looking for a 2013 to 2015 white Dodge Ram 1500 pickup. Farr said the truck would be missing a headlamp.

Police also seem to lack leads in Patton’s death. But his mother isn’t giving up hope.

“Someone somewhere will speak up and say something,” Jackson Wasserman said.

“Although these types of investigations are difficult, it is important for the public to help in any way possible,” Eleza Jackson, Patton’s sister, said. “The police can only do so much, it is now time for the village to get involved.”

His family has established a scholarship in Patton’s name.

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