BROOMFIELD, Colo. – It has been nearly nine months since a driver ran over a 12-year-old boy on his way to school, and the family is questioning why the Broomfield Police Department won’t seek justice against the prime suspect in the crime.
The boy’s parents both say they worked in law enforcement out-of-state for years and believe the investigation started to fall apart on its first day.
After several months of watching the investigation unfold, Rachael Segarra, the boy’s mother, questions why the department assigned three different officers to the case.
Records show the first officer determined the boy was largely at fault for the crash. The third did just the opposite —seeking charges against a driver for leaving the scene.
“I was told, ‘let’s chalk this up to a learning experience,” Segarra said of the first officer in an interview with Denver7 investigative reporter Ryan Luby.
Segarra also wants to know why the driver was never charged in the crash.
Broomfield Police responds to the crash
In the early hours of May 18, 2016, Broomfield Police Officer Ehrlich responded to reports of injuries following a hit-and-run in the area of Broadlands Lane and Troon Circle.
Initial police reports obtained by Denver7 Investigates show that a dark, possibly black-colored Volvo XC-90 was driving east on Broadlands Lane at the same time Tristan Segarra, 12, was riding his scooter south on Troon Circle.
The child told authorities he tried to stop the scooter but was unable to do so. He told police that day he struck the driver’s side of the Volvo before the driver took off without stopping to check on the boy.
Segarra was left on the street with a broken tibia and a lower ankle fracture.
Officer Ehrlich interviewed a witness at the scene, who at first described the driver as possibly being a woman. The witness admitted he did not see the accident, but only its aftermath, as the driver left the scene.
The officer then followed leads that led him to the girlfriend of a man and later to the man himself, who would become the primary suspect later in the investigation, according to the police report.
Officer Ehrlich interviewed the man and asked to look at his black Volvo SUV.
“After looking at the driver’s side of the vehicle, I saw very faint marks on the lower part of the driver fender. Those marks were not scratches, not dents but light rub marks from what could be clothing,” the police report states.
The man was very polite and cooperative, according to the police report obtained by Denver7 Investigates, and reportedly told police he was upset that the boy was hurt. He also told officer Ehrlich “that he never heard, saw or knew of the accident. [The suspect] started to cry and said that he felt horrible about what had happened, adding “If he hit my car and was hurt, I feel horrible, I just can’t believe it.”
Despite talking to the suspect and taking evidence from his vehicle, Officer Ehrlich determined it was the boy, not the driver, who was to blame for the crash.
“Tristan admits fault to the accident, and had he stopped for traffic, or used the crosswalks there, the accident would have never happened,” the police report by Denver7 Investigates states.
A second officer gets involved
Eight days later, on May 26, a second officer got involved in the case.
Officer Hendry reached out to the same witness who described the driver as being female. That witness told the officer that while he did not see the crash, he knew the vehicle was a Volvo SUV as a vehicle not too far from his home resembled the one he saw after the crash had happened.
The officer then later met with the primary suspect in the crash who told him he was coming from his girlfriend’s home and that he was driving a black Volvo SUV at around the same time the crash took place, according to police records.
The officer asked if he could check out the man’s black Volvo SUV for any sign of damages, but the only sign of damage that was found was a bubble in the sidewall of the front driver's side tire.
The officer then took photos of the car and the man as evidence in the investigation.
A third officer joins the investigation
On Wednesday June 1, 2016, another Broomfield Police officer was assigned to follow up on the case.
Officer Vela got in touch with the mother of the primary suspect’s girlfriend, after the mom called the Broomfield Police Department during the initial stages of the investigation to report that her daughter’s boyfriend drove a black Volvo SUV, the vehicle allegedly involved in the hit-and-run.
The girlfriend matched the description one of the witnesses gave Officer Ehrlich.
Officer Vela was then able to get a photograph of the woman so that it could be used in a photo lineup during the ongoing investigation.
Five days later, on June 6, 2016, Officer Vela met with the witness who described the primary suspect in the hit-and-run as a female.
The officer showed the witness two photos, one of the primary suspect and the other of the suspect’s girlfriend.
The witness “was advised that is it not known if the person that committed the offense is shown in the photo lineups,” the police report states.
After taking some time to look at the photos, the witness told Officer Vela the suspect was a male.
The witness “advised on the day of the accident he had thought the driver was a female,” according to the police report obtained by Denver7 Investigates. The witness “went on to tell me that if you take out the hair, he is positive that [the primary suspect] was the driver,” the police report added.
The police report states the witness told Officer Vela that the man’s eyes and nose are what stood out to him, adding that the witness “again stated that he's 100 percent sure the vehicle was a black Volvo sports utility vehicle.”
Segarra remembers other details of the crash
That same day Officer Vela was contacted by Segarra’s father, telling the officer his son had remembered something else about the suspect vehicle.
The police report obtained by Denver7 Investigates states Segarra told Officer Vela that besides the color and general description of the vehicle, he remembered the SUV had two stickers in the rear windshield — one in the bottom, left-hand corner and the other in the bottom, right-hand corner.
While he could not describe the stickers, Segarra told the officer he remembered seeing the two stickers when he was yelling at the vehicle as it drove off, the police report states.
The police report then adds the following: “It should be noted that the suspect’s vehicle has two stickers in the rear windshield. [The suspect] has one in the left bottom corner and one in the right bottom corner of the rear windshield.”
The case falls apart due to conflicting reports
Adams County District Attorney Dave Young sat down with Denver7 investigator Ryan Luby to talk about the case, and said that because of the differing details in the multiple reports that were filed, it would be hard to make a case for the family.
“I think Broomfield did a good job with what they had. They did identify a suspect — a pretty reasonable suspect,” Young told Denver7 Investigates. “The problem is the suspect didn’t know whether or not there was an accident at the time. More importantly, we could not prove that the suspect knew there was an accident at the time, which is something we’d have to prove in court,” he said.
Young said the case ultimately falls apart because the witness had first described the driver as a woman to one of the first officers investigating the case.
“We’re going to need more evidence to file a case at this time.”
But the Segarra family believes all of this could have been resolved if Broomfield Police were simply more consistent and aggressive in their investigation.
"You call the police, especially in this day in age, and you want to instill in your children that the police are there to help. And when he's going through this, how can he truly feel that he's safe?" said Segarra’s mother.
Broomfield police declined to speak with Denver7 Investigates, deferring the case to the DA’s office instead.
Now, stuck in the middle of it all is a little boy who’s still patching his wounds both physically and emotionally.
Editor’s note: Denver7 Investigates has decided not to name the suspect in the crash, as he was never charged in the case.