‘He messed with the wrong truck:' Bystanders nab fatal hit & run suspect in Denver

Posted at 7:43 AM, Aug 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-09 09:49:36-04

DENVER – Customers at a convenience store nabbed the suspect in a fatal hit-and-run crash near 40th and Havana and held him until police arrived.

Witnesses reported the suspect, who was driving a red pickup, believed to have been stolen, repeatedly slammed into the back of another driver’s car just west of Havana, and then blew through the intersection, striking and killing a man who was trying to enter his work van.

They say the suspect then tried to steal two other vehicles.

“My employee was eastbound on 40th,” said Tom Eickbush, a manager at Denver Intermodal. “He stopped at Havana and was rear-ended by the assailant. When he hit him the third time, it shot him across 40th Avenue.”

A few seconds later, a customer walking out of the 7-Eleven toward his work van, which he had parked on the street, was struck and killed.

Woman attacked

An employee at nearby Rio Grande Industries told Denver7 that a man attacked her just as she pulled into the parking lot and got out of her car.

"I feared for my life," she said. "He hit me and grabbed my key."

Miraculously, the woman was able to hang on to her key fob.

“Every time he tried to start the car, I hit the (fob) and shut it off,” she said.  “He’d start it, and I’d shut it off.”

She said the suspect got angry, smacked her car a few times, and then ran back toward the 7-Eleven, where the Team Wash Guys of Denver had just fueled up their truck.

Suspect subdued

“We were walking here (in the lot) and saw a guy lying on the pavement,” said Team Wash employee Justin Trujillo. “Then I saw this dude running towards the truck. I thought he was just going to go around it, but he jumped in.”

That’s when the Team Wash group sprang into action.

“We’re like, ‘Oh no.’ We ran up and threw the dude out,” Trujillo said. “He was tussling a little bit. We knocked him down, and he ran out into the street.”

Bystanders told Denver7 that there was another minor collision in the street as a motorist tried to avoid hitting the suspect.

“He was swinging some kind of pipe,” Trujillo said. “Once he was surrounded, he got down on his knees and put his hands up. We subdued him. He messed with the wrong truck.”

Victim described as hard worker

Authorities have not released the identity of the pedestrian who was killed, but co-workers say he was a deliveryman for OnTrac Shipping.

“We were worried when he didn’t show up for work this morning,” said a fellow driver. “He never called.”

“He was a hard worker and always had a positive attitude,” said another driver, Melvin Keliiholokai.

“He would do extra stuff that he was not asked to do,” said fellow driver, Sean Cunningham. “All the little things he did literally helped that whole (darn) warehouse, you know what I mean?”

Streets shut down for 7 hours

Havana Street was shut down for 7 hours between 37th and 45th Avenues, and a two block stretch of 40th was shut down at Havana, while police processed the scene.

DPD’s Homicide unit is in charge of the investigation.

Investigators say they’re trying to determine a motive for the suspect’s actions.