Denver Police staff shortage impacts family’s pursuit for justice in deadly hit-and-run

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — Roberto Zarate Jr. was killed walking along a sidewalk on Evans Avenue near Interstate 25 back in June.

His family is hoping to hire a private investigator to find the person who ran him down and took off. That investigator needs a full police report, which hasn’t been easy for the family to acquire.

Hit-and-run driver still at large

“I was shocked. … As of now it’s still hard for me to believe he’s not here with us,” said Veronica Gallegos, Zarate’s niece. “We miss him so much,” she said.

Veronica’s mother, Maria Zarate Macias, was Roberto’s sister.

“My brother was very, so kind. My brother was helpful. My brother would lend a hand to everybody,” Macias said.

His death was made even worse by the fact that police have been searching for the responsible driver, who fled the scene afterward.

“We couldn’t even believe it; we still can’t believe it,” Macias said.

Photos and a roadside memorial are all that’s left of Roberto for his family, but they’re pursuing something else for the father of two: justice.

“I’m still trying to see if I could find the person that did this,” Gallegos said.

The family plans to hire a private investigator to track down the driver of the truck involved in the crash, not wanting to wait on police. But they’ll have to anyway: The investigator needs a full report on DPD’s investigation.

“When I asked for it, they said it could take 10 to 12 weeks to get the report,” Gallegos said.

Why the delay?

The Problem Solvers sought answers from Denver police.

They said the records unit is operating at 52% capacity at the moment. They said they are hiring more staff, but training for this unit takes half a year.

In the meantime, Roberto’s family reminded drivers to stay safe on the roads.

“Drivers need to be careful on the road, keep their eyes on the road,” Macias said.

“Take it easy. I mean, there’s no rush for nothing,” Gallegos said.

Another reason why police have a backlog on records is the COVID-19 pandemic.

DPD had a hiring freeze because of a revenue shortfall that affected their budgets.

If you have any information about this case they’re asking you to contact Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867 (STOP).

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