CENTENNIAL, Colo. — A crash in the westbound lanes of Interstate 70 near Genesee on July 15 paralyzed a young girl from Colorado. Now, her family wants to ensure that the person who allegedly caused the crash is held accountable.
“She's working through this, trying to rise above this," said Peter Harris, father of 10-year-old Lucy Harris.
Peter said Lucy was in the car with her mother Jennifer and younger brother Calvin, on their way to the Courage Classic Bicycle Tour which is a fundraiser for Children's Hospital Colorado. Peter was a participant in the ride.
"It's a straight road. It was slightly uphill. There were no curves. There was no weather. There are repeated stoppages of traffic," said Peter. “Not only is it hard to accept, it's unacceptable that it happened.”
Peter said his family stopped behind traffic on the highway, and another vehicle plowed into the back of them.
“I'm not exaggerating when I'm saying that this guy recklessly chose... — he chose to put his attention on something else and drove 70 miles an hour into my daughter's back," Peter said. “She has a permanent spinal injury. She had internal bleeding. They had to take her spleen, they had to do full surgery. She had tubes coming out out of everywhere. It's the most devastating thing as a parent... The only person that's suffering the consequences right now is Lucy.”
Lucy's spinal cord was severed in the crash, and her father said she is now paralyzed.
“It could have been your kids. It could have been anybody's kids," Peter said. “She was just, really, a sitting duck on the highway and in a stopped car.”
The alleged driver who caused the crash is Jerold Taylor, a deputy with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.
Denver7 reached out to a spokesperson with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, who confirmed Taylor is employed with the department, and has been since 2005. In a statement, spokeswoman Jacki Kelley said their "Administrative Investigations Unit is conducting an inquiry into the tragic incident that occurred on I-70, which is currently a misdemeanor case. If the charges are upgraded to a felony, Taylor will be placed on leave."
Kelley continued to say Taylor was not on-duty, driving a Jefferson County Sheriff's Office vehicle or "working under the color of his authority at JCSO when the accident occurred."
Lucy has been in the hospital since the crash, and her mother has spent every night with her. Lucy's younger brother is dealing with the emotional ramifications of the crash, and does not want to drive on the highway. The entire family and their routines or expectations in life have been shattered.
“Whether or not he's an officer, or whether or not he's a member of the public and has some other kind of job, shouldn't matter," said Peter.
Lucy's father knows the crash will always be part of his daughter's life, but is confident it will not define her.
“She's a very smart girl. She doesn't want this to be some story about all the things that she can't do anymore, because she's going to find a way to do them," said Peter.
Court documents show Taylor is facing three counts of careless driving resulting in injury. A Colorado law firm reports that is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, which could result in a maximum of a year of jail time, and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Peter does not believe the current charge reflects the magnitude of what happened to his daughter.
“When she's 15 years old, when she's 17 years old, when she's 20 years old, when she's 50 yearsold, she's going to be dealing with this," said Peter. “The consequences of this type of behavior are as extreme as it gets without losing a life in this situation... I'm not somebody who wants to destroy somebody's life or to be vengeful, or to live in anger for the rest of my life over this, I just want a proper response... Is it going to undo it? No. But it will be that formal acknowledgment from the community and will allow her to move forward and continue to try to rise above this."
A GoFundMe has been established to help the Harris family with "everyday expenses (mortgage, utilities, groceries, etc.), medical expenses... time off of work... significant modifications to their home... a new vehicle capable of transporting their daughter... necessary medical equipment to accommodate her [Lucy's] daily needs, and provide around-the-clock care."
Taylor's arraignment is currently scheduled for Sept. 14. Peter said Lucy is expected to come home from the hospital on Sept. 19.
Denver7 will be following up on this story.