Video: Erin Jackson, busted in East High hit-and-run, is a teacher and slam poet
Update: As soon as we got a look at Erin Jackson, the thirty-year-old woman arrested for this week's brutal hit-and-run that critically injured an East High School student -- see our original coverage below -- it was clear she didn't fit the a typical criminal stereotype. Turns out, though, that her background makes the act for which she's been accused even more incongruous.
Jackson is a fifth-grade teacher at an Aurora charter school, as well as a past slam poetry competitor.
Just after 7 a.m. on Wednesday, as we've reported, a gray, four-door sedan was traveling down Colfax near Elizabeth when it struck a sixteen-year-old student in a crosswalk. The vehicle didn't stop, leaving the student in the middle of a busy intersection -- East is on one side of the street, the Tattered Cover and Twist & Shout are on the other -- with severe injuries.
Here's footage of the accident. Be warned: Even though the impact is seen from a distance, it's still jarring:
The girl was raced to a nearby hospital, where she's currently reported to be in stable condition with a head injury. Meanwhile, a citywide alert went out for the driver of the vehicle, originally described as a white or Hispanic woman in her early thirties.
Then, at around 4:30 a.m. yesterday, after a presumably sleepless night, Jackson turned herself in to authorities, and the car -- a Chevy Malibu -- was recovered. Denver police revealed her identity at an emotional news conference late yesterday afternoon, and it didn't take the media long to figure out that she teaches fifth grade girls at AXL Academy in Aurora. Here's her bio from the school's website:
Erin Jackson recently moved to Colorado and is originally from Lawrence, Massachusetts. Erin is passionate about learning, helping her students acquire an authentic understanding of the world and enjoys slam poetry. Erin received her B.A. in History and Education and her Master in Health Education at Boston University. Erin is looking forward to exploring Colorado, but will miss the ocean!
The mention of slam poetry isn't a casual one, as is clear from a 2010 profile of her in Worcester Mag . The article begins like so: Erin Jackson is a member of the Worcester slam poetry team and recently placed seventh in the individual category of the national competition in Austin, Texas. Born in Lawrence, she graduated from Pentucket Regional High School in West Newbury and earned a BA in history from Hampshire College in Amherst. She teaches at the Montrose School in Medfield. In the Q&A, Jackson responds to a question about performance anxiety, saying she's never had it. "I am much more comfortable reading in front of a thousand people, rather than one-on-one," she allows. "The big groups don't scare me. The anxiety is writing a piece and saying what I want it to be."
Did she suffer a kind of performance anxiety Wednesday morning, freezing up and driving on rather than stopping and aiding a teenager, as one would expect most dedicated teachers to do? Hard to say. But because she fled, she'll face even more severe sanctions than if she'd stuck around thanks to newly toughened hit-and-run laws inspired by Tim Albo, another hit-and-run victim who continues to face health challenges two years or so later.
In the meantime, AXL Academy's head, Audra Philippon, has released the following statement:
"We are shocked to learn of Erin's involvement in this terrible accident. We can confirm that Erin has been employed as an intermediate teacher at AXL for approximately eight months. We are keeping the victim in our thoughts and prayers and wish her a full recovery. At this time, our top priority is supporting our students as they learn of this sad news."
Here's reports about Jackson, who's expected to make her first court appearance today, from 9News, along with a 7News piece and a larger look at her mug shot. That's followed by our previous coverage.
Continue for our previous coverage, including photos and videos.
Update, 4:04 p.m. February 28: At a news conference that ended moments ago, the Denver Police Department identified the woman arrested for a brutal hit-and-run that critically injured an East High School student yesterday as Erin Jackson, 31.
Jackson reportedly turned herself in amid waves of publicity generated by the crime, which was captured in surveillance footage on view below.
The student has yet to be identified, but she's said to be in stable condition, albeit "not out of the woods yet."
The last words are from Lieutenant Robert Rock, the main speaker at the press event.
Lt. Robert Rock.
Rock could not provide much detail about Jackson's statement about the incident, which took place just past 7 a.m. yesterday near the intersection of Colfax and Elizabeth. The victim was in a crosswalk when she was struck by a gray sedan, which didn't slow or stop after striking the teen.
At one point during the presentation, Rock, who cited the ongoing investigation for his inability to provide additional details, held up Jackson's booking photo. Here's a screen capture of that moment:
At this point, the family members of the teen struck in the accident are requesting privacy while they concentrate on their loved one's recovery. In the meantime, the DPD is still investigating, with a new piece of evidence at their disposal: the car involved in the incident, which belongs to Jackson and has been recovered.
Continue for our previous coverage.
Update, 11:42 a.m. February 28: The Denver Police Department has now confirmed that it's made an arrest in a brutal hit-and-run at Colfax and Elizabeth that's left a sixteen-year-old East High School student in critical condition.
Before the day's out, we should know the name of the 31-year-old woman who's been taken into custody. Here are the DPD tweets with the latest.
The first tweet:
BREAKING: DPD has arrstd a 31 yr old fem in connection with the hit and run accident at Colfax & Elizabeth.We have also recvd av vehicle.— Denver Police Dept (@DenverPolice) February 28, 2013
And the second:
CONT: the suspect is being process and identity will be released when confirmed.No further information at this time— Denver Police Dept (@DenverPolice) February 28, 2013
We understand that the woman turned herself in to authorities -- and that police have possession of the vehicle that did so much damage.
Continue for our previous coverage of the East High hit-and-run, including surveillance footage and more.
Update, 8:19 a.m. February 28: Moments ago, the Denver Police Department Twitter feed provided new information about a terrible hit and run near the intersection of Colfax and Elizabeth that's left a sixteen-year-old East High School student in critical condition; our original coverage, including surveillance footage, is on view below. The message reveals that the DPD is currently questioning a person of interest.
Here's the tweet in question:
BREAKING: DPD is speaking with a person of interest regarding the hit & run on E. Colfax.No further info.Anticipate updates later today— Denver Police Dept (@DenverPolice) February 28, 2013
The part about "updates later today" suggests a certain confidence among investigators. Continue for a suspect description and more.
Original post, 5:44 a.m. February 28: It can be one of the busiest crosswalks in Denver. On one side of the street: East High School. On the other side: The Tattered Cover, Twist & Shout and more. But just after 7 a.m. yesterday, there wasn't much traffic beyond a gray, four-door sedan, which didn't stop for a red light at the intersection of Colfax and Elizabeth, and kept going even after bashing into an East student who's clinging to life at this writing. Photos and surveillance footage of the accident below.
Here's the clip, supplied by the Denver Police Department. Be warned: Even though the camera is some distance away from the spot of impact, and there's no audio, it's still hard to watch.
A larger look at the moment right before the girl was struck:
The thus-far-unidentified girl, age sixteen, was raced to a nearby hospital, where, at last report, she was in critical condition, with swelling to her brain.
Afterward, the street quickly transformed into a crime scene....
...and investigators turned up a gray shard that's thought to be from the vehicle (possibly a Dodge Stratus) involved in the terrible incident:
The description of the driver offered by police is sketchy -- a white or Hispanic woman in her twenties or thirties, with red hair that reaches to her shoulders.
At a DPD news conference yesterday, Lieutenant Robert Rock passed along a message from a loved one of the injured teen: "She asks that we do everything we can to find who is responsible. She also asks that the individual responsible for this do the right thing and please come forward."
If you have any information about the driver or her whereabouts, phone Crime Stoppers at 720-913-STOP (7867). An award of up to $2,000 is being offered in the case.
Look below to see a 9News about the crime, plus a new Denver Police clip about investigation methods for hit-and-run accidents.
More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Dennis Esquibel busted in fatal Laura McDermott hit and run -- but was he the driver?"
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.