Victim's nephew surrenders in fatal hit-and-run

DENVER - Family members of the man who was killed in a hit-and-run Thursday night in north Denver say the driver responsible was the victim's nephew.

That nephew, identified as 18-year-old Johnnie Duran, surrendered to police Friday afternoon.

Duran is being held on investigation of vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a fatal accident, Denver police said.

Eugene Guerra, 55, of Denver, was killed in the hit-and-run near a scrap metal yard on East 48th Avenue, by Clarkson Street, around at 9:53 p.m., Sgt. Mike Farr said.

Witnesses say the men were loading scrap metal into their white pickup truck when things went horribly wrong. According the family, Duran backed up into a trailer, triggering a chain reaction.

"That trailer was then forced into the front of a truck that was parked behind it, causing damage to both the trailer and the truck," Farr said. "The (pickup truck) then either struck or somehow came into contact with the pedestrian."

Following a tip, police located the suspect vehicle on Friday,  around 11:30 a.m., in a public area about 1.5 miles away, near East 47th Avenue and Race Street.

Once the pickup truck was located, the Medina Alert that was issued overnight was canceled.

This was Denver's first use of the new Medina Alert.

-- Medina Alerts for hit-and-runs --

In March, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill creating statewide alerts for hit-and-run crashes in memory of a 21-year-old valet worker who was killed three years ago in Denver.  Similar to an Amber Alert, with the Medina Alert, signs on the state highways will alert drivers to the description of the vehicle police are searching for. The system was named "Medina Alert" after Jose Medina, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver.

Denver and Aurora had already been using the name during previous hit and run investigations.

The new law calls for a statewide system to be implemented next year. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation says the project to determine how the new system will be implemented is ongoing.

While the crash in this case occurred at approximately 9:53 p.m., CDOT says they weren't notified until 1:45 a.m. to put the alert on their electronic signs. The signs were lit with the information throughout the Friday morning commute.

"Quite frankly, we will have to determine if there was a breakdown," Farr said, adding that he felt encouraged about the successful use of the Medina Alert in this case.

And while the Medina Alert did bring in a series of tips, it's not clear if a tip or someone's conscious led police to the truck.

"Unless folks say, 'I came forward because of the Medina alert,' it's hard to say or did they come forward because they were doing the right thing, because they knew intimate knowledge, it's hard to say at this point," Farr said.

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