A hit-and-run crash into a homeless encampment steps away from the Westword office at Tenth and Broadway last night injured as many as six people, according to witnesses at the site this morning. One victim is still in the hospital, reportedly with broken ribs and a collapsed lung.
The driver of the vehicle is still at large.
The Denver Police Department tweeted about the incident at 9:33 p.m. Thursday, October 18. The message reads: "Officers are on-scene at 10th & Broadway in regard to a Serious Injury, Auto/Ped, Hit & Run. Three Pedestrians were struck by the vehicle, which is presently described as a Silver or Grey SUV."
Witnesses say the DPD's injury estimate only takes into account the people actually transported to Denver Health. They say three others also suffered injuries, albeit ones not serious enough to require hospitalization. Several teenagers were among those hurt.
Westword's Chris Walker wrote about the encampment that had sprung up along Tenth Avenue at Broadway in "The Story Behind Homeless Camps Sprouting Up in the Golden Triangle." As this September 20 story documented, many of the homeless who typically camped in Civic Center Park had been displaced by events there around Labor Day, leading them to relocate each evening in nearby areas, including the alley and parking lot by Westword and a convenience store across Tenth. As Walker noted, Denver police tended to arrive in the mornings to move campers along, but as many as twenty would return in the evening.
In the weeks since the publication of that article, the campers had moved about half a block west, across the entrance to the Tenth Avenue alley to a sidewalk with an overhanging roof built to protect pedestrians from an adjacent construction site. And that's where the crash took place.
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Just prior to 9:30 p.m., one witness says, he saw a vehicle careening in the direction of the sidewalk. At first, he thought it was a police vehicle coming to roust the campers at an unexpected time. But then he realized it was a silver SUV headed straight toward a large number of people. He pushed as many as he could out of the way, but the vehicle still struck several, including his sister — the person hospitalized with the collapsed lung.
After the impact, the man says he got close enough to the SUV to pound on the window. While he didn't get much of a look at the driver amid all the confusion, he was able to see him shift into reverse, then squeal around and race off down the alley to the north, behind the convenience store. The man gave chase on foot, but wasn't able to catch sight of a license plate before the truck disappeared.
The campers on the scene this morning were clearly shaken by what they'd experienced last night. A few moments ago, several were heading on foot to Denver Health, to check on the condition of the man's sister.
If you have any information about the SUV driver or other aspects of the crime, you're encouraged to contact the Denver Police Department at 720-913-2000 or Crime Stoppers at 720-913-STOP (7867).