A chance encounter in a courtroom led police to arrest a man suspected of striking and killing a man with his car on Jan. 6 near Gonzaga University.
Nicholas Wesbrooks, 34, appeared in court Tuesday on an unrelated driving under the influence charge, court records show. A police detective and a deputy prosecutor investigating the hit-and-run were in the courtroom and recognized Wesbrooks as their hit-and-run suspect.
On Jan. 6, a blue Ford Escape driven on Hamilton Street hit Michael Donahey as he crossed the street at Spokane Falls Boulevard.
Court records indicate Donahey did not have the right of way and that the Escape, driven by Wesbrooks, had a green light.
A witness saw Wesbrooks’ SUV speed off after hitting Donahey, according to court documents.
About a half mile away at Hospice of Spokane, a janitor was throwing trash in the dumpster when a dark SUV drove through the parking lot and came close to the janitor, according to court documents.
Police allege Wesbrooks drove toward the south exit of the parking lot but hit a large boulder in the driveway. The SUV’s grill was knocked off by the boulder. Wesbrooks then parked the SUV in a way that obstructed view of the damaged grill from passersby.
Meanwhile, as police canvassed the area searching for the hit-and-run driver, an officer stopped Wesbrooks, who by that time was on foot walking near Sprague Avenue and Sherman Street.
Wesbrooks told the officer that he had ridden the bus from his house and was not driving that night or riding as a passenger in a vehicle involved in a collision.
Police allowed Wesbrooks to leave.
Later that night police responded to a call about the SUV in the hospice center parking lot. Surveillance video showed a man wearing dark clothing and hooded jacked with a light-colored object visible on the upper part of his right sleeve, court records show. The outfit was the same as the clothing Wesbrooks was wearing when he talked to police, according to body camera footage video recorded by the officer who interviewed him the night of the crash.
Police recovered DNA from the SUV and plan to see if it matches that of Wesbrooks.
The registered owner of the SUV was out of town at the time of the hit-and-run, according to court documents.
Wesbrooks has a criminal background, including convictions of harassment threats to kill and second-degree assault in December 2018.
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