DENVER — A normally bustling boxing club in Denver is now the site of a growing memorial as the community remembers its owner.
Joaquin Romero, 35, was killed in front of his home early Sunday morning on South Eliot Street by a hit-and-run driver, according to Denver police. His father, Oscar Romero, says he had just stepped out of an Uber when a driver hit him and left him to die.
"It's kind of surreal. I just don't … I can't believe that he's gone yet," Oscar said Tuesday.
Joaquin owned Topeira Boxing Club on West Alameda Avenue and South Clay Street. It was a goal of his that started in his garage and quickly became reality.
"His life was really built on his gym," Oscar said. "I've heard a lot of people at the gym say that he had turned their life around when they were in low spots in their life."
News of Joaquin's death devastated those who arrived for class Monday evening, including Janina Shubert and her 14-year-old son.
"I was extremely sad. It’s hard to comprehend stuff like that. Like, one day you see a person and the other day he's gone," Shubert said. "[My son] was close to his coach, but he would not say much. All he had was his big eyes wide open, you know, and he was just kind of shocked."
UPDATE: Investigators have determined that this death was the result of a hit & run traffic crash involving a motorist and a pedestrian. If you have any information that will help locate the driver of the pictured vehicle, please call 720-913-7867. pic.twitter.com/n2iVIuHHvX— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) February 7, 2022
On Monday, the Denver Police Department released a Crime Stoppers flyer showing the Hummer that may have been involved in the hit-and-run. A Hummer matching its description, with the same white cover on the driver's side passenger window, was seen escaping police Monday. Moments later, it crashed near the corner of Perry Street and West Colfax Avenue.
Denver police have not confirmed if it was the same Hummer they were looking for. However, in a tweet shared Tuesday, the department said it had found the Hummer and arrested the driver on charges of motor vehicle theft and vehicular eluding.
UPDATE: Yesterday, officers located the vehicle featured in the @CrimeStoppersCO bulletin, the driver was arrested for investigation of motor vehicle theft & vehicular eluding. We are continuing to investigate whether the driver/vehicle were involved in the fatal hit & run crash.— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) February 8, 2022
The investigation into whether the driver and Hummer were involved in the hit-and-run is still underway.
"I'm trying to hang in there for everybody," Oscar said.
Joaquin's father is focused now on making funeral arrangements for his son and determining the future of the boxing club.
"It's going to be hard to replace him. But yeah, we do want to keep the gym going," Oscar said.
It's clear Joaquin's clients will keep coming back, even after his death.
"As long as they will be here, we will be coming and we'll be supporting, you know," Shubert said. "We don't want to run away."
A GoFundMe for Joaquin had already raised more than $40,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.