Cell Phone Pictures From Good Samaritan Solves Fatal Hit, Run

12:38 PM, Jul 7, 2012   |    comments
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LAKEWOOD - A quick-thinking Good Samaritan and some detective work by a local car dealership helped Lakewood police solve a deadly hit-and-run.

Investigators say Alfred Rodriguez, 62, died when a speeding SUV, driven by 46-year-old Joel Martinez, hit his motorcycle around 6:45 a.m. Sunday near Sheridan and Yale.

It happened just 7 hours after a new law took effect making hit-and-runs a more serious offense.

Dozens of people held a vigil at that intersection Thursday night to remember Rodriguez.

A sign marks the spot where the SUV ran over him Sunday. The sign includes the words "please drive safely."

That driver never stopped to help, but three cellphone pictures helped police quickly make an arrest.

Shortly after the hit-and-run, Ryan Fowler saw Rodriguez pull over into a parking lot and attempt to fix the front end damage to his Black 2004 Chevy Tahoe.

"It made a loud noise, and he was limping in there," Fowler said. "I don't know how he was even moving because the bumper was tucked up in."

The first clue something was wrong was the damaged SUV. The second clue was the man driving it.

"I noticed the guy got out and he had a little blood on his head and that's when I was like, he was in a hit-and-run," Fowler said.

Fowler took three pictures with his cellphone and called Lakewood police.

"He saw me and he took off," Fowler said.

The black Chevy Tahoe matched the description of an SUV involved in a hit-and-run that happened several miles away.

Police say the driver was going twice the speed limit when he rear-ended Rodriguez on his motorcycle.

David Rodriguez says he and his family are devastated by the loss of his brother, who died the next day in the hospital. Rodriguez says his brother was riding to work. "Without any notice he's gone," Rodriguez said. "It's just a great deal of pain and sorrow and hurt that we're feeling right now."

Fowler's three cellphone pictures were the only evidence police had. The Tahoe had temporary plates, but the pictures held a clue.

"There were Stevinson dealership tags," Lakewood Police spokesperson Ty Countryman said. "That truly led us down the right road."

Police called the dealership. Sales manager John Petro and his team went through four months of sales records.

"No license plate number or anything," Petro said. "We got the right people on the right task and we did it."

They tracked the SUV to Joel Martinez who was driving to his job at the Lakewood Parks and Recreation Department.

Lakewood spokesperson Stacie Oulton says the accused driver was a temporary city employee and is no longer on the job.

Martinez told officers he was running late for work.

Martinez is out of jail on charges of vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident. Nobody answered the door at his house Thursday afternoon.

Police say they got their man, all because of those cellphone pictures and a dealership's detective work.

"It was because of them that this got solved within 36 hours," Countryman said.

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