Nicolas Ortega: Mysterious run across the highway leads to hit-and-run tragedy

From the beginning, authorities were unclear why Nicolas Ortega, 22, ran across Interstate 225 on Sunday evening -- a dash that resulted in his hit-and-run death and the subsequent arrest of the alleged driver, Tashima Littleton.

Days later, his family is still searching for answers even as they grapple with their grief.

Get details about this still-mysterious incident below, along with photos and video.

A high school athlete who excelled at wrestling, Ortega was in a relationship and getting serious, his father told 7News in a report on view below. His best friend describes him as "the most loving person you could ever meet."

Ortega during his wrestling days, in a family photo shared by 7News.
Ortega during his wrestling days, in a family photo shared by 7News.

His promising life was cut short at about 8:35 p.m. on February 2. According to the Aurora Police Department, a man subsequently identified as Ortega was crossing the southbound lanes of I-225 in the vicinity of the 2200 block when he was struck by a vehicle.

Ortega was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The vehicle's driver, a woman, didn't stop. But a witness managed to eyeball her license plate number. Before long, investigators traced the ride to an address near 6th Avenue and Moline occupied by Tashima Littleton, age thirty.

The scene of the crash, from 7News coverage.
The scene of the crash, from 7News coverage.

The APD notes that "intoxication is suspected," which may explain why Littleton kept going. However, she's not thought to have been speeding, and neither is she believed to have caused the accident, since Ortega was in a middle highway lane at night. As such, she was released following her arrest, and charges are said to be pending.

Meanwhile, Ortega's loved ones remain baffled about what happened immediately preceding the incident. They say he was riding with his girlfriend when she dropped him off on the side of the highway "for some reason." Afterward, his attempt to cross the interstate was cut short in a terrible way.

Look below to see Littleton's booking photo, followed by the aforementioned 7News report.

Tashima Littleton.
Tashima Littleton.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive circa January 27: "Photos: Ernesto Wiedenbrug, cyclist, killed in hit and run, no suspects yet."

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