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A story was published in the paper about a hit-run. A suspect was jailed 4 days later

McClatchy

A tip from a man who read a news story about a hit-run on Interstate 5 last week led to the arrest of a Sedro-Woolley man in connection with the incident that critically injured a Western Washington University student, authorities said.

Washington State Patrol detectives on Monday arrested Luis Gomez Gutierrez, 51, on suspicion of hit and run accident with injury, said Trooper Heather Axtman.

Axtman said Gutierrez is the suspected driver of a car that struck Lucas K. Brazier and left him critically injured as he crossed southbound I-5 about 10 p.m. Jan. 31 just south of Samish Way.

Brazier, 23, was found off the I-5 shoulder by a state trooper called to investigate a report of someone walking across the freeway.

Brazier was upgraded to satisfactory condition Wednesday at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he was being treated for head and leg injuries, hospital and state patrol officials said. He has been moved out of intensive care.

Gutierrez kept driving and didn’t call 911 after striking Brazier, according to documents filed in Whatcom County Superior Court by Evan Jones, deputy prosecuting attorney.

Another driver, a woman who swerved to avoid Brazier, took the next exit and called 911, according to court documents.

The trooper found a backpack in the roadway, stopped his patrol car, and heard Brazier moaning in pain from the roadside, according to court papers.

Gutierrez later told authorities he thought he had hit a deer, state patrol detectives wrote in court documents.

Axtman said investigators don’t know why Brazier was crossing the freeway.

“(Brazier) was literally in the bushes,” Axtman said. “The trooper radioed and said, ‘I found a backpack. Wait! Start me aid,’” Axtman said.

Investigators found debris at the scene linking the car that hit Brazier to a green 1991-1996 Ford Escort or Mercury Tracer, she said.

On Feb. 2, a witness read about the incident in The Bellingham Herald and called the state patrol, Axtman said.

According to court documents, the witness told troopers he talked to Gutierrez last Thursday, the day after Brazier was hit, and Gutierrez said that he had hit something on the freeway in Bellingham.

State Department of Licensing records show Gutierrez owns a green 1995 Ford Escort wagon.

Court records show Gutierrez was arrested Monday after he admitted the incident to investigators. He spent a night at Whatcom County Jail and was released about 7 p.m. Tuesday on $5,000 bail, Jones said.

Detectives served a search warrant and found Gutierrez’s car in the Bow Hill area. It had damage consistent with evidence at the scene of the incident, Axtman said.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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