AUSTIN (KXAN) — The driver who police say hit and killed a man while he was waiting at a bus stop in south Austin and left the scene Wednesday morning has been arrested.
Darrell Shane Smitty, 52, has been charged with failure to stop and render aid, with bond set at $100,000. The crash happened around 8 a.m. at the intersection of South First Street and West Ben White Boulevard.
Austin police say a white GMC Sierra 4-door pickup truck with the license plate AD68179 was in the far right turn lane, westbound on the frontage, waiting at a red light with a Capital Metro bus to its left (in the straight lane).
When the light turned green, police say the driver in the pickup truck, instead of turning right like he was supposed to, accelerated to try to beat the bus going straight. As the bus was coming to a stop at the bus stop, the pickup truck driver “jumped the curb, drove down the sidewalk” and struck 40-year-old Ernesto Garcia.
Police say the driver continued down the sidewalk where he hit a trash can and finally came to a stop. Photos from the scene show a toppled trash can and a bent bus stop sign lying next to it.
“He was driving very erratic, at a high rate of speed,” said Eric Stewart, who watched what happened from the Capital Metro bus. “The truck came up on the sidewalk and just ran past the bus so fast, and the bus driver opened the door, and there it was. He was just laying there. He was not moving.”
The driver then got out of his truck, walked around and looked at the damage of his truck, police say.
“The driver then was approached by some witnesses who told him he had struck somebody. The driver walked back to the scene, looked at the scene where he struck the subject, walked back to his truck, got into his truck and left the scene,” says Cpl. Chad Martinka.
Stewart captured video of the suspect reaching down and touching the victim before he walked away.
“For that guy just to come by and see that and just drive off, that was so sad,” Stewart said.
Martinka says the driver then got onto the freeway and sped away. He is asking people who were on the bus to contact the Austin Police Department if they have video or pictures of the crash scene as well.
“It’s not like he didn’t know, because he was told by multiple people what happened,” Martinka says of the driver who left the scene.
“Detectives are looking for more cellphone video, and anyone who shares it can stay anonymous,” Martinka said.
Tracy Neal uses the same bus stop every day and says traffic is always hectic in the area.
“I don’t want to get hit. It’s terrifying,” Neal said. “I just try to stay as close to the sidewalk as possible, you know, be mindful of people and my surroundings.”
Police say they don’t know why Smitty got out of his vehicle to look at Garcia then took off. But APD Detective George Burbank says officers are seeing an increase in pedestrians being injured by vehicles and more drivers leaving the scene.
“Just stick around and deal with the minor consequences,” Det. Burbank said. “As soon as you leave, you’ve potentially just committed a felony.”
Burbank said pedestrians are responsible for their safety, too.
“Get your face out of your phone,” he said. “You need to pay attention to what you’re doing, cause it can cost your life.”
Garcia’s is at least the fifth person hit and killed by a vehicle in Austin in the past two weeks. On Sunday a man was hit and killed crossing Manchaca Road, a man crossing I-35 downtown was hit by a couple vehicles Friday, on Thursday a man walking on the sidewalk was hit by a car that then careened into a ravine in north Austin and a cyclist found a man’s body by the side of the road last Monday.
The area of Wednesday’s hit-and-run is not among the city’s most dangerous, but people have plenty to say about it, according to an interactive map the City created for people to share their concerns. People have said it’s hard for people to see each other near the intersection of South First Street and Ben White Boulevard, and that people don’t always use the crosswalks. Other areas of the city feature more comments.
Editor’s Note: The license plate number in this story has been corrected.
The suspect had an expired drivers license