The hit-and-run death Wednesday night of a 23-year-old senior airman stationed at Buckley Air Force Base continues a grim trend in Colorado. Such fatalities are on the rise in the state, even as overall traffic deaths decline.
Denver Police said Michael Snyder was on his motorcycle when an SUV struck him from behind at East Alameda Avenue and South Monaco Boulevard, 9News reported. The bike skidded more than a block on the pavement.
9News investigative reporter Chris Vanderveen said witnesses followed the suspect to his Lowry townhome where police made the arrest. The suspect was identified by police as William Pettapiece, 32.
An ongoing investigative series by I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS in partnership with 9News shows that while laws have been toughened to deal with hit-and-run drivers, the carnage has only escalated.
In 2012, the last full year for which data are available, 34 people were killed across Colorado by hit-and-run drivers, almost double the 18 deaths the year before. The result was the state ranked 10th in the U.S. in terms of hit-and-run fatalities per capita.
Between 2011 and 2013, about 1,300 people in the metro area’s three largest cities – Denver, Aurora and Lakewood – were injured by hit-and-run drivers, ranging from bruises to paralysis, according to the I-News/9News inquiry. That averages out to at least one person injured every day by a motorist who then flees the scene.
And a staggering 17 times a day in the city of Denver someone reports a hit-and-run incident of some type to police.
Gov. John Hickenlooper recently signed legislation expanding Denver's Medina Alert statewide. The law instructs the state Department of Public Safety to set up a statewide alert system though television and radio, billboards and text messages whenever police need help locating a car and driver involved in a hit-and-run accident that led to a fatality or serious injury.
The Medina Alert will be comparable to the Amber Alert for missing children.
The program was created by former Denver police officer Larry Stevenson in 2011 and named for Jose Medina, who was killed in 2011 by an hit-and-run driver on his first day of work as a parking valet. A taxicab driver who saw the accident called police and gave them a tip that helped catch the driver.
A Buckley spokesman said Snyder was a member of the 460th Space Communications Squadron.
It was the fourth deadly hit-and-run in Denver this year.