By Peter H. Milliken
The mother and the fiancee of a young man killed by a hit-and-run driver Feb. 2 say it’s imperative for police to apprehend the driver who killed him and the hit-and-run driver who injured five young men Friday at the same location.
“Horror,” was the word Jewell Brown of Youngstown, mother of Robert Brown, used to describe her immediate reaction to Friday’s crash at a candlelight vigil for her son, which she attended.
“It was absolute horror,” she said, adding that initially she couldn’t believe a hit-and-run with injuries was happening again in the same place a week later.
Brown said she believes Friday’s crash was deliberate, but she said she has no idea what the motive might have been.
“They waited. They heard about this vigil. They literally planned this. They came around the corner with lights out, hit the gas, and five people were lying on the ground seconds later,” she explained.
Robert Brown, 23, of Youngstown, died of injuries he suffered Feb. 2 when a hit-and-run driver struck him as he walked to his truck just after he left a Hylda Avenue bar just west of Market Street.
“This has affected so many people’s lives. We need to bring this to closure. We need to have these people caught. This can’t keep going on. Innocent lives are at risk,” Jewell Brown said. “Every crowd is going to be looking for a speeding car with no lights. No one should have to live that way,” she added.
“We need help from the police department” and from any citizens with any information about these crimes, she said.
Jewell Brown and Robert Brown’s fiancee, Bianca Caradine of Youngstown, were at the police station Saturday to discuss with officers the two incidents and their aftermath.
“I was very scared last night because I don’t know what their intentions were,” Caradine said of the hit-and-run drivers. “I want all of them caught,” she said, adding that she wants the drivers to face “the max, whatever is possible,” in penalties, if convicted.
“I want to see justice for them. I want to see justice for my son” Jewell Brown said. “I want the maximum” in penalties for anyone convicted, she added.
Police said they have found, towed and impounded a car in connection with the Friday incident.
Narratives in police reports reveal a chaotic scene when officers encountered the five injured young men at Friday’s vigil.
The majority of witnesses in the crowd of about 50 told police a white Pontiac Sunfire with its headlights turned off had been northbound on Trenton Avenue, turned right onto Hylda Avenue about 6:30 p.m., and accelerated toward the crowd.
It struck two parked vehicles and the five young men with its front end and passenger side before turning right to go south on Market Street, witnesses said.
Police encountered the first victim, Tyler Austin, 19, of Adaline Avenue, Campbell, unresponsive and not moving, bleeding from his face, with skin peeled off his head and scalp. Witnesses said he may have been dragged about 70 feet by the speeding car.
The next victim, Ricardo Reyes, 19, of Bright Avenue, Campbell, told police he thought his leg was broken.
Another victim, Hector Tejda, 19, of Ohio Avenue, was awake but not responding to questions and appeared to be in shock, police reported.
A fourth victim, Chester Mitchell, 19, of Greeley Lane, who was lying on the sidewalk in front of the former South Side post office, told police he thought his legs were broken.
The last victim, Felix Rodriguez, 21, of Eddie Street, said the car hit him in his right leg.
All of the victims were taken to St. Elizabeth Health Center, where some underwent surgery, with Austin in critical condition and the others in stable condition.
A hospital spokeswoman declined to provide any updates on their conditions Saturday evening.