It’s hard to understand how, in the age of the camera, motorists think they can strike a pedestrian on a busy boulevard, take off and get away with it.
But that’s what happened Wednesday evening in downtown Stamford.
Now a 52-year-old Stamford man is hospitalized with life-threatening injuries, and police are on the trail of the driver of a gray Acura, even though the driver took an extra step to conceal himself by abandoning the car and removing the license plates.
But a witness to the accident at Tresser and Washington boulevards captured the plate number and gave it to police. Then police found the Acura parked nearby.
Now police are on the way to finding the driver.
“We had the plate number, we put it through our license plate reader system, then we knew we were looking for a gray Acura. Officers found a gray Acura with heavy damage not far from the crash scene,” said Sgt. Jeffrey Booth, supervisor of the Stamford Police Department’s Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Squad. “The person probably thinks we’re not going to get information on the car without the plate, but that’s not always the case.”
Officers know that the Acura is unregistered and more than likely uninsured. There may be other evidence.
“We’ve had crashes caught on Ring cameras, on business surveillance cameras, on city traffic cameras. Cameras are everywhere at this point,” Booth said. “There are so many things around that we can track.”
Officers “hate it” when a motorist flees after striking a pedestrian, said Booth, who’s been with the C.A.R.S. unit for 20 years.
“It’s terrible, especially when you hurt somebody this badly. We’ve had people leave crashes involving fatalities,” Booth said. “I don’t know why people flee a crash scene. Nowadays it’s much easier to catch someone.”
Yet more motorists are fleeing crash scenes than ever, according to a 2018 report by the Washington Post.
American drivers hit and run about 2,000 times a day – more than at any time since the federal government began recording the statistic in 1975, according to the report. Hit and run fatalities occur about six times a day.
Most drivers remain at the scene after an accident, researchers have found, but others just want to cut out.
Some get scared and don’t know what to do, so they leave, according to the report. Others rationalize, telling themselves the person was not really hurt so they don’t have to stay. Others fool themselves into thinking they hit a deer, not a person – one of the most frequent stories police hear, according to the report.
It cites a European study that found that a small number of hit and run offenders have no emotion about their decision to flee, and exhibit a complete lack of moral judgment.
The study found that 42 percent of drivers involved in hit and run crashes were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“Whether you’re right or wrong, you should never leave the scene of a crash. It’s a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison if it causes serious injury or death,” Booth said. “You’re always better off staying. Even if you have to deal with an unregistered or uninsured car, one is an infraction and one is a misdemeanor. That’s better than a felony.”
Wednesday’s crash was the second in Stamford involving serious pedestrian injury. Last month 68-year-old Elena Laos of Stamford was hit by a car on East Main Street as she crossed the intersection at the Interstate 95 exit ramp. Laos later died of her injuries.
In that case, the driver, a 26-year-old Shelton resident, remained at the scene and cooperated with police. The investigation determined that neither speed nor intoxication was a factor in the collision.
Booth said he is in touch with the family of the man struck in Wednesday’s crash. His latest information from the family is that the man remains in critical condition, Booth said.
Hit and run crashes “happen all the time,” Booth said. “It’s very unfortunate. People think they are not going to get caught.”
UPDATE: Unfortunately, Ronald Molina died in hospital on Thursday Night. The family has set up a a fundraiser to help with funeral costs: https://gofund.me/0ef578f1