Somerset Man Who Struck and Killed Pedestrian, Then Fled Scene, Sentenced
FALL RIVER — A 37-year-old Somerset man who struck and killed a pedestrian, and then fled the scene, was convicted and sentenced to serve three to four years in state prison.
Victor Hopkins pleaded guilty in Fall River Superior Court this week to a charge of leaving the scene-death resulting.
On May 14, 2017, Fall River Police responded to the area of Brayton Avenue where it connects to Route 24 for a report of a pedestrian being struck by a vehicle. When first responders arrived, they found the victim, Robert Colby, 61, of Fall River, lying on the roadway suffering from multiple injuries. He was rushed to Saint Anne’s Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
Two witnesses who were parked near the Simply Local Wood Company reported seeing a silver Jeep Liberty traveling on Brayton Avenue, heard a loud crash, and then saw a person in the roadway. The Jeep Liberty did not stop after the collision. The two witnesses followed the Jeep Liberty and called 911 to give police the license plate number of the vehicle.
The witnesses continued to follow the Jeep to the Target parking lot in Swansea, where they saw the Jeep drive in a big circle. One of the witnesses then pulled near the Jeep and asked the defendant why he didn’t stop after hitting the pedestrian. The defendant responded by saying, “I hit a deer, I gotta go.”
The defendant then fled the parking lot and began driving the back roads of Swansea.
In the meantime, Somerset Police responded to the area of Mohawk Road, where the vehicle is registered, looking for the Jeep Liberty. When they spotted the Jeep, police activated their overhead lights, at which point the defendant exited the vehicle and said, "What did I hit? It was a deer, it was a deer, right?”
Police observed damage to the vehicle, including green scuff on the hood that matched the color of the victim’s jacket. The passenger side headlight assembly was missing, along with most of the orange directional cover. There were dents on the hood, and the passenger side front quarter panel was dented.
Police did not observe any blood or fur on the vehicle to corroborate the defendant’s claims that he struck a deer.
During a subsequent interview at the Fall River Police Department, the defendant denied hitting anyone with his vehicle, and also denied encountering anyone in the Target parking lot in Swansea.
Officer Wendell Burks, a certified accident reconstructionist, responded to the scene of the collision. He observed broken headlights and directional light fragments, along with a green jacket and black baseball cap belonging to the victim. Officer Burks also examined the exterior damage on the Jeep Liberty and matched up several broken pieces of amber colored lens recovered at the crash scene to the missing pieces from the right front amber colored turn signal lens of the vehicle.
There was no evidence the vehicle had been involved in a collision with a deer.
Officer Burks determined that the victim was walking west in the breakdown lane of the westbound side of Brayton Avenue. The vehicle entered the breakdown lane behind the victim. The victim was struck by the right front bumper of the vehicle and was catapulted up onto the hood. The victim was carried on the vehicle for approximately 35 feet before the vehicle redirected back towards the westbound travel lane. The victim was then tossed off of the right side of the hood, was thrown approximately 85 feet, struck the ground and tumbled approximately 50 feet to his final resting position in the breakdown lane.
During a sentencing hearing before Judge Raffi Yessayan, Assistant District Attorney Carolyn Morrissette argued that based on the facts of the case, the defendant’s lengthy criminal record and the defendant’s status as a habitual traffic offender, the defendant should be sentenced to serve six to eight years in state prison.
The defendant, however, recommended a more lenient two-and-a-half year county jail sentence.
“It is very troubling that this defendant struck and killed a man and left him to die in the street, and then repeatedly lied by saying he hit a deer,” District Attorney Quinn said. “I would like to thank the witnesses for having the courage to follow the defendant and make his apprehension possible.”
--Bristol County District Attorney's Office