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Decatur police charged the driver of a sport utility vehicle with leaving the scene of an accident.
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Decatur police charged the driver of a sport utility vehicle with leaving the scene of an accident.

Reporter, witness catch Decatur hit-and-run suspect
Man arrested after wreck said he was ‘going home’

By Chris Paschenko · 340-2442

Reporters seldom help capture a wanted man, especially someone suspected of fleeing the scene of a wreck with injuries. Tuesday was an exception.

I was driving to a noon assignment and missed by seconds seeing a two-car collision on Sixth Avenue Southeast at Sherman Street.

A snapshot of the scene revealed four lanes of scattered debris from two totaled vehicles. As traffic came to a standstill, passersby tended an injured man still in his car, and a witness ran east on Sherman Street.

The runner, J.T. Thompson, sprinted half a block and then slowed down to catch his breath.

“A man walked away from a wreck,” Thompson said, between gasps for air. “He was hurt ... holding his side ... couldn’t have gotten that far.”

Thompson, a civil contractor with Waters Brothers in Decatur, hopped in my car, and the hunt was on.

Decatur lawyer Carl A. Cole III didn’t see the wreck but saw a man leave the scene.

He called 911 and told a dispatcher the man suspected of causing the wreck fled south between two homes toward Delano Park.

“I’ll check the alley,” Cole told us. “You check out the park.”

The driver of a four-door car was injured and taken to a hospital.
The driver of a four-door car was injured and taken to a hospital.
As Thompson described the man he was looking for, I saw a hispanic man with reddish-blond hair emerge between two historic homes adjacent the park’s rose garden.

“Is that him?” I asked.

Thompson lunged from my car and confronted the man.

“I asked him where he was going, and he said, ‘I’m going home,’ ” Thompson said.

As I dialed police dispatchers, two officers on motorcycles, who just happened to take Gordon Drive while heading to the wreck, took control of the scene and arrested the suspect in the rose garden.

I asked the suspect, identified by police as Carlos Lopez Quinones, 25, why he ran. He replied in broken English, “I don’t understand.”

Police said Quinones lives in the 300 block of Gordon Drive Southwest about a half mile from the rose garden.

Thompson returned with police to the wreck scene. He said Quinones ran a stop sign on Sherman Street and collided with a car headed south on Sixth Avenue.

“I never saw him stop,” Thompson said. “It spun the (victim’s) car completely around and busted out the glass on the passenger side window. It was rolling back and forth. I was able to chalk the wheel to keep it from rolling.”

The hit-and-run suspect was walking around, holding his side, Thompson said.

“If you wouldn’t have come up, we probably wouldn’t have got him,” Thompson said.

Police Sgt. Kevin Hunter said the victim, John Hanks, 54, of Huntsville didn’t suffer life-threatening injuries. Thompson said an ambulance took Hanks to the hospital.

“The man who ran off refused treatment,” Hunter said. “We towed both of the vehicles. They were totaled.”

Police charged Quinones with leaving the scene of an accident and having no proof of insurance. He remained Tuesday at the Decatur City Jail in lieu of $1,000 bond.

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