Passenger defends driver accused in hit-and-run in LoDo

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DENVER -- A passenger is defending the driver of a vehicle that police say struck two pedestrians in downtown Denver and took off.

Denver Police said Manuel Saucedo hit two pedestrians when he sped off from the intersection of 20th Street and Market Street on August 25 after a large fight erupted.

Saucedo's niece Destiny Aguilar was with her uncle and his girlfriend that night. She said the video showing the sedan slamming into two people doesn't give context to what happened leading up to that incident.

Aguilar said they were trying to leave downtown when a fight broke out in front of her uncle's car. According to the arrest affidavit, a crowd of between 80 and 100 people had gathered in the street to watch a fight involving between 10 to 12 people.

Aguilar said the angry crowd started to turn on Saucedo's car, hitting the vehicle and yelling for the car to move. Aguilar said they couldn't move because they were stuck in the middle of the crowd.

Aguilar said they got out of the car to try to break up the fight but it back fired. According to the affidavit, police used pepper balls to disperse the crowd. However, some members of the crowd remained. Police report several participants were hitting the vehicle with a "large traffic glow post and forcefully pulling the driver’s door backward, toward the front of the car."

"There were two or three guys trying to pull the car door off the car and someone got a cone and they were beating my uncle with it," said Aguilar. "My uncle was honking the horn and it was a stick shift and he was trying to get it in gear and that’s when we took off and he hit the people."

Aguilar said they were scared and disoriented so they didn't stop and pull over after the incident. She said none of them came forward in the days after the incident because they didn't think anyone would believe their side of the story.

"It’s not right. I feel like they are blaming him like we were going there intentionally, like he was drunk and just ran these people over. We were getting attacked. If we did not drive off, we would have ended up worse. We are two females and a male. There were more than 10 people attacking us. It was scary. And it upsets me that people are thinking this other side of it," said Aguilar.

Police say the two pedestrians who were struck were evaluated at a hospital and did not suffer serious injuries.

In the affidavit, police said they were able to track down Saucedo following the submission of numerous tips to Metro Denver Crime Stoppers. People provided video of the incident as well as information like the car’s license plate number.

Saucedo is scheduled to be in court for a preliminary hearing on Oct. 9.

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