Suspect ‘hit panic mode’ in deadly hit-and-run, prosecutors say

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When a driver hit a woman walking on North 35th Street last week, he stopped to look back, saw she was still moving and admitted he “hit panic mode” and drove home, prosecutors said in a criminal complaint against the driver.After the crash on Feb. 22, Mario Hernandez, according to the complaint filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court Thursday, also took the license plates off his car.”Hernandez admitted that he did not have a valid license at the time of the crash, claiming he believed it to be suspended,” Assistant District Attorney Michael Schindhelm wrote in the complaint.Schindhelm said police investigators reviewed video from a pole camera mounted at the intersectionAccording to the complaint, the video showed Nikki Houghton walking from the west side of North 35th Street between Wisconsin Avenue and Wells Street when a maroon Jeep heading north is seen with its headlights “clearly” illuminating Houghton.”The Jeep’s brake lights illuminate briefly and it veers right in an apparent effort not to strike the victim,” Schindhelm wrote. “However, the victim is struck and the Jeep never stops, completely, instead driving north and then turning east on West Wells Street.”The complaint said Houghton, 42, is seen lying in the roadway but not moving. It would not be the only time she would be hit.”Several cars avoid the victim without further incident, until a black Honda Civic drives in the same direction, striking the victim and running her over. The Honda stops on scene.”According to a report from the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner, the Civic dragged Houghton several feet and left her pinned underneath the vehicle.She was pronounced dead at the scene.“She was deeply loved, and deeply cared about. She’ll be deeply missed,” Houghton’s sister Jewel Houghton said in a statement after the crash.While the complaint does not indicate how investigators tracked Hernandez down, the day after the deadly crash, Milwaukee police, in concert with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, issued a public crime alert to news outlets containing a still image of the SUV involved in the crash. The alert said the vehicle was believed to have damage to the front bumper and was likely missing one fog lamp.The complaint said investigators confirmed Hernandez’s driver’s license was revoked in 2018 for an OWI conviction. The complaint does not suggest alcohol was a factor in the deadly crash.He is charged with hit and run involving death and knowingly operating a vehicle while revoked and causing death. Records show he made an initial appearance on March 3.Milwaukee County Court Commissioner Grace Flynn found there was probable cause to send the case forward for further proceedings.The next court date for Hernandez is scheduled for March 11.

When a driver hit a woman walking on North 35th Street last week, he stopped to look back, saw she was still moving and admitted he “hit panic mode” and drove home, prosecutors said in a criminal complaint against the driver.

After the crash on Feb. 22, Mario Hernandez, according to the complaint filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court Thursday, also took the license plates off his car.

“Hernandez admitted that he did not have a valid license at the time of the crash, claiming he believed it to be suspended,” Assistant District Attorney Michael Schindhelm wrote in the complaint.

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Schindhelm said police investigators reviewed video from a pole camera mounted at the intersection

According to the complaint, the video showed Nikki Houghton walking from the west side of North 35th Street between Wisconsin Avenue and Wells Street when a maroon Jeep heading north is seen with its headlights “clearly” illuminating Houghton.

“The Jeep’s brake lights illuminate briefly and it veers right in an apparent effort not to strike the victim,” Schindhelm wrote. “However, the victim is struck and the Jeep never stops, completely, instead driving north and then turning east on West Wells Street.”

The complaint said Houghton, 42, is seen lying in the roadway but not moving. It would not be the only time she would be hit.

“Several cars avoid the victim without further incident, until a black Honda Civic drives in the same direction, striking the victim and running her over. The Honda stops on scene.”

According to a report from the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner, the Civic dragged Houghton several feet and left her pinned underneath the vehicle.

She was pronounced dead at the scene.

“She was deeply loved, and deeply cared about. She’ll be deeply missed,” Houghton’s sister Jewel Houghton said in a statement after the crash.

While the complaint does not indicate how investigators tracked Hernandez down, the day after the deadly crash, Milwaukee police, in concert with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, issued a public crime alert to news outlets containing a still image of the SUV involved in the crash. The alert said the vehicle was believed to have damage to the front bumper and was likely missing one fog lamp.

The complaint said investigators confirmed Hernandez’s driver’s license was revoked in 2018 for an OWI conviction. The complaint does not suggest alcohol was a factor in the deadly crash.

He is charged with hit and run involving death and knowingly operating a vehicle while revoked and causing death. Records show he made an initial appearance on March 3.

Milwaukee County Court Commissioner Grace Flynn found there was probable cause to send the case forward for further proceedings.

The next court date for Hernandez is scheduled for March 11.





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