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Unsolved Hit-And-Runs Pile Up In Austin
A frustrated hit-and-run victim is questioning why no one's been arrested for an accident that left him seriously injured and disabled.
It's, unfortunately, a scenario the Austin Police Department deals with every single day.
In 2012 there were 9,389 'fleeing the scene' of an accident cases on Austin roads. Police made just 306 arrests in those cases and issued warrants in another 36.
That leaves more than 8,500 hit-and-run cases with no arrests and no suspect.
It's a problem that affects every one of us on the roads and in our insurance bills.
For Sims Walker, Dec. 15, 2011 was a normal night. He closed up the furniture store where he was working and started his commute home on Ben White Blvd. in South Austin. But while stopped in a line of traffic, he was rear-ended by another driver. Walker was trapped in his car, unable to move until EMS arrived and pulled him out.
The driver who caused the accident walked up to Walker's window, asked if he was going to call police and when Walker said yes, he took off running away from the scene of the crash, according to Walker.
Today, more than a year after the accident, Sims Walker is now forced to liquidate his assets.
"I've sold off probably 75 percent of a coin collection that I had for the last 40 years," he said.
Selling his coin collection is the only way he's now able to pay the bills that have piled up since the car accident.
"You do what you've got to do," he said with a sad shrug.
But it's what the other driver in the car accident didn't do that has put Walker in this financial situation. The memory of the other driver running away from the scene still makes Walker's blood boil.
"Had he walked up to the car and said 'are you hurt? Anything I can do to help?' I would not be as angry as I am today," said Walker. "And believe me I am very angry about this whole situation."
Walker is angry not only at the driver who fled the scene, but also at police and the lack of progress on his case. Despite the suspect leaving his car and his wallet behind at the scene, no arrest has ever been made.
"You know who's driving! You know whose vehicle it was! Why is nothing being done?" Walker said in complete exasperation.
"It does sound like it should be enough," said APD spokesperson Anthony Hipolito. "But unfortunately, we have to prove the case without a shadow of a doubt. There has to be 100 percent positive proof he was driving that vehicle."
For APD, it's a scenario that they see more than 700 times a month. They say 'fleeing the scene' cases are difficult to prove, requiring a confession from the driver or a positive identification from an eye witness.
"I'm the one who's losing everything. He's getting nothing for it!" said Walker. "Why am I being punished for his actions?"
With no arrest in Walker's case, the suspect's insurance company is fighting against paying any medical bills, which is financially crippling the Vietnam veteran.
"Well, I guess moral of all of this is, if you drink and drive and cause an accident get out of your car and run away because nothing happens," said Walker sarcastically. "Somewhere there is a loss of justice, and I just don't understand it."
Leaving the scene of an accident carries the same punishment at driving while intoxicated, both are misdemeanors. To try to discourage the number of people who flee, a felony charge of 'failing to render aid' can be added if the suspect injuries the victim and runs away.
The statute of limitations to charge someone in Walker's case is not yet up. His case was recently reopened, and if Walker can identify the driver charges could still be filed.
By Karen Kiley