Excerpts trickling out from police records describing a 1999 drunk driving accident in San Francisco seem to corroborate the account of Ginger Vasquez, a victim in the accident, who said Colorado Treasurer-elect Walker Stapleton was driving drunk and attempted to flee the scene of the accident. The police report conflicts with Stapleton’s version of events, in which he has repeatedly denied fleeing the scene.
A Denver Post story printed Tuesday reviewing the report only quotes sections and fails to answer basic questions about the case. Did Stapleton hit the other car involved in the accident, as Vasquez put it, or was he hit by the taxi Vasquez was riding in, as Stapleton put it? Was anyone hurt in the accident? Although court documents examined by the Colorado Independent (pdf) list two victims, Vasquez and a woman named Christie Gregory, the Post only quotes San Francisco police to say “no pedestrians” were hurt in the collision.
Stapleton told the Post he was driving his Jeep Cherokee across an intersection when a taxi hit the rear of his vehicle, heavily damaging it and spurring him to pull over roughly one block from the intersection.
That’s not how witnesses saw things.
Vasquez told the Colorado Independent that at 2:30 in the morning on sloping Jones street in downtown San Francisco, Stapleton drove through a red light and smashed into the cab she was riding in, sending it into a 360 degree whirl.
“When the cab stopped spinning, I looked out the window and saw his jeep or whatever, a big car, pull to the side of the road down the hill. Then I saw his car start to move again. He was going to leave but two cabs came up the road– I think it was two cabs– they blocked him in. One went in front of him and the other went behind him, so he couldn’t drive away.”
“He didn’t walk up to the cab or to the corner where the accident happened.” Vasquez said. “I never talked to him then or later.”
That’s the version corroborated by witnesses at the scene who were interviewed by the police officers who wrote the report quoted by the Denver Post.
According to the report, witnesses said that after the two vehicles collided at the intersection of Bush and Jones streets, Stapleton continued to drive away. Police caught up with his Jeep down the street.
“We then attempted to stop the vehicle with lights and siren,” the report said. The car “then failed to pull over and continued southbound on Jones St. (The Jeep) having been damaged by the collision, could no longer continue and came to rest.”
Stapleton then got out of his car, the report said.
“A strong odor of alcohol beverage could be detected emanating from from Stapleton’s breath and clothing. He spontaneously stated, ‘I had the yellow light, he ran the light.’
“He was unsteady on his feet, and loud and belligerent.”
Stapleton campaign manager Michael Fortney didn’t answer questions posed by the Colorado Independent before the November 2 Treasurer’s election about the case, including whether Stapleton was high as well as drunk when he was driving, as the court documents suggest, and how Christie Gregory was injured in the collision.
During the campaign, now-defeated Democratic Treasurer Cary Kennedy said Stapleton owed it to the citizens of the state to tell the whole story of the accident. She said voters seeking answers were right to question Stapleton’s commitment to transparency in a race that will decide who will manage billions in tax payer cash in the coming four years.
Stapleton told the Post that he made exculpatory statements to police at the time that were not included with the report and that the report should be viewed along with documents from the district attorney’s office that would show why the hit-and-run charge was dropped.
Stapleton campaign manager Michael Fortney said it would take a court order to get additional documents and that he was “trying to figure out how much it’s going to cost to get all of this.”
Stapleton is a member of the wealthy Bush-Stapleton family. Family members donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaign.