"I just don't understand," the boy's aunt, Gwen Talamantes-Espinoza, said in a tearful interview with 9News reporter Chris Vanderveen Monday. "Why would someone just leave?" Michael Espinoza was killed while crossing Federal Boulevard near Colfax Avenue in Denver on Sunday night, Feb. 16, 2014 by a car that did not stop after striking the 11-year-old boy. Police arrested Oswald Lopez later Sunday and have charged him for the accident. But the car that struck the Knapp Elementary School fifth grader lost its front license plate at the scene, enabling police to arrest Oswaldo Lopez, 21, in Aurora about an hour later.
Lopez was charged with vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a fatal accident in a hearing Tuesday. A Denver County Court judge set bond at $50,000.
The child's death is not the first time someone has been hit near that intersection. Between 2011 and 2013, there were nine other hit-and-runs in the vicinity that resulted in injuries, according to an I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS/9News investigation into the rising incidence of hit-and-run.
Two were at the Federal/Colfax intersection and three others were at Interstate 25 and Colfax. There were three in the blocks south of the intersection and one to the west.
A map from a Denver Police Department report about a hit-and-run accident on Sunday night, Feb. 16, 2014 that killed 11-year-old Michael Espinoza as he and a cousin crossed Federal Blvd. near West Colfax Avenue in Denver. Police say Oswald Lopez, 21, was the driver of the car that hit Espinoza and are investigating Lopez for reckless driving and vehicular homicide.
9News launched #justSTOP last week to focus attention and seek public assistance on what some are calling a hit-and-run epidemic.
The joint investigation by I-News/9News revealed the location of more than 1,300 injuries from hit-and-runs between 2011 and 2013 in Denver, Aurora and Lakewood. The numbers suggest, on average, one person a day is injured during a hit-and-run in the Denver metro area.
The investigation shows that about three people are killed every month in Colorado by drivers who then flee the scene.