Just over three years after 21-year-old Jose Medina, a valet at the now-defunct Rockstar Lounge at 940 Lincoln Street, died after getting struck by a hit-and-run driver, Governor John Hickenlooper signed House Bill HB14-1191 into law and created the Hit and Run Medina Alert Program, the first of its kind in the country. "The key is if we solve and get to these cases, it allows us to push back against hit and run," said the governor. "I think people feel that they get away with this, and if we do a better job of apprehending them, that will change."
"We've known for far too long that hit and runs are the most unsolvable crimes in law enforcement, but today we add shape and form and color to the ghost," said Larry Stevenson at yesterday's signing ceremony at the State Capitol. "Today we illuminate what would chose to hide in the darkness, to flee the scene of a crime of leaving somebody to possibly die in the street, worse than a dog."
Stevenson, founder of Taxis Patrol (now Transportation on Patrol), had already created a municipal Medina Alert Program in use in Denver and Aurora. Through that program, he says he's already trained over 5,000 transportation providers in Colorado to keep their eyes open and be good witnesses when a hit and run occurs. The new state law just expands the tools they can use -- and encourages citizens to join in. The Medina Alert will work like an Amber alert, notifying the public to keep their eyes open after a hit and run.
"We will have a way on some platform, whether the digital signs, whether VMS signs on the highway, whether by text messages, e-mails, news alerts, breaking news, whatever it is -- we will have a way to reach over 4 million residents in the State of Colorado," Stevenson said. "What that means is that the person who would chose to hide...they don't only have to be on the lookout for the police department or a taxi driver or a limo driver, they have to be on the lookout for every resident here in the state of Colorado. What that means is that Colorado is biblically correct: We are our brother's keeper."
Denver mayor Michael Hancock stood by Jose Medina's mother, Linda, at the signing. "Now with House Bill 14-1191, we can make it very clear to those who decide to leave what could be an accident at the time and becomes a felony when they flee that we have other tools, including these electronic billboards and Taxis on Patrol, to put out more eyes and alert the community," Hancock said. "Maybe this could have helped us when the young men were hit on 14th Avenue and Yosemite to help the public wake up and realize we are looking for someone."
Hancock was referring to Za May Khan and Ah Zet Khan, two boys killed as they were crossing the street with their mother on March 22, 2013; that crime is still unsolved.
Since the original Medina Alert Program was created two years ago, Hickenlooper says, seventeen Medina alerts have been issued and thirteen cases solved. The expanded statewide program could help solve more: "This lets us get the info to solve hit-and-run crimes. It allows the State Patrol and the Department of Public Safety to alter the media and issue bulletins on electronic highway signs and use other ways," he said.
"The public can be the eyes and the ears to assist law enforcement in apprehending dangerous drivers," Hickenlooper continued. "This bill passed with overwhelming public support. I think this is a kind of legislation that's a smart tool. It doesn't cost us a lot of money but it allows us to dramatically increase our ability to apprehend criminals. I think is a classic example of really where we are doing things differently and better in Colorado."
Unlike some other hit-and-run cases, the death of Jose Medina was solved relatively quickly. Four people were arrested and all pleaded guilty, including Norma Vera-Nolasco, who was driving and so drunk at the time that she said didn't realize she'd run over someone. From our archives: "Video: See the SUV that killed kids Za May Khan, Ah Zet Khan in 14th and Yosemite hit-and-run"
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