Joe Emanuel Hernandez; Driver Suspected In The Hit-and-run Crash That Killed A Pedestrian On Red Cliffs Drive Still At Large

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Joe Emanuel Hernandez; Driver Suspected In The Hit-and-run Crash That Killed A Pedestrian On Red Cliffs Drive Still At Large

The driver suspected in the hit-and-run crash that killed a pedestrian on Red Cliffs Drive last week has been identified following a multiagency investigation spearheaded by the Washington City Police Department. But police say he is still at large.

Joe Emanuel Hernandez, 20, of West Valley, was charged Tuesday in 5th District Court for his alleged involvement in a hit-and-run crash that left one man dead last Thursday.

Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams told St. George News a no-bail warrant was issued Tuesday for Hernandez when the case was filed by the Washington County Attorney’s Office.

The incident occurred last Thursday when emergency dispatch received a call shortly before 10 p.m. reporting an injured man lying in the roadway near 1050 West and Red Cliffs Drive. Several motorists were rendering aid to the man when officers and emergency personnel arrived.

Responders reportedly began treating the injured man, but despite continued life-saving efforts, he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. Williams said the man sustained extensive trauma from the incident.

Of the people who pulled over to help the man, Williams said none of them were in the immediate area when the crash took place.

Investigators say footage collected from several area cameras showed a man being struck by what appeared to be an SUV as he started to cross the street from where he was standing on the sidewalk. The vehicle then swerved slightly to the right before continuing south along Red Cliffs Drive.

At the scene, detectives spoke to a witness who reportedly said they were stopped at a red light approximately two blocks from the scene when they saw a red compact-style SUV blow through the light at a high rate of speed. The witness said the vehicle then continued toward the location where the victim was killed. The vehicle was said to have a body style consistent with a Toyota Rav4.

The witness’s account of the vehicle type reportedly was consistent with vehicle parts found by first responders on the morning of the crash. This evidence was analyzed by the Washington County Critical Crash Task Force as part of the accident reconstruction investigation and the parts were found to be manufactured by Toyota.

On Saturday, officers received information on a possible suspect known only as “Joe,” of Draper, who was working at a job site in St. George at the time of the crash.

They also found a citation that was issued to a Joe Hernandez, who was stopped by a patrol officer in St. George on Thursday for going 97 mph in a 70 mph speed zone. The citation listed the vehicle as a 2015 Toyota Rav4.

A registration check on the vehicle indicated that Hernandez lived in West Valley City.

Investigators reached out to the West Valley Police Department to request that one of their officers check the vehicle for any damage, which is when they learned the vehicle could not be located and that Hernandez was “well known” to officers there, police said.

They also learned that Hernandez was a registered gang member, suspected of several violent crimes up north, and had three prior convictions for speeding

In addition, Hernandez is awaiting trial on charges related to a hit-and-run crash that caused property damage in Salt Lake City.

On Monday, the Salt Lake County Fugitive Task Force located the Toyota parked in the backyard of Hernandez’s home in West Valley City.

Investigators say they reached out to Hernandez’s employer and confirmed that he was working at a job in St. George during the time of the crash. The employer said Hernandez was scheduled to work in St. George for another week but had not been seen since he left early on Friday after telling his supervisor that he needed to “attend to legal matters in Salt Lake City,” according to the affidavit.

Further investigation revealed that Hernandez checked out early from a hotel in St. George and he returned to West Valley City late Friday.

Additionally, authorities say Hernandez had contacted his insurance company shortly after the hit-and-run crash and told the adjuster he had struck a deer and needed to file a claim to repair front-end damage.

On Monday, officers spotted the Toyota pulling into the backyard behind Hernandez’s residence, which is when the Utah Department of Public Safety launched a helicopter that flew over the residence and confirmed it was Hernandez’s vehicle.

Aerial photos taken during the operation showed dents and damage to the front bumper of the SUV consistent with evidence found at the scene. However, authorities were able to take him into custody at that time.

As of Thursday morning, Hernandez had yet to be located and the search for him continues, Williams told St. Geoge News.

On Tuesday morning, the case was filed by the Washington County Attorney’s Office and a no-bail warrant was issued for Hernandez’s arrest. His charges include negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor; failing to remain at the scene of an accident involving death and making a false insurance claim, third-degree felonies; and driving on a denied license, a class C misdemeanor.

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact

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Feel free to leave a message of condolences and prayers for the family and friends of the deceased in the comments section as it will go a long way for them during this difficult time.

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