Former NBA and international player Duane Washington has been arrested and charged with failing to stop at the scene of an accident causing injury or death after allegedly hitting a 70-year-old woman suffering from early onset dementia with his car early Tuesday morning.
Washington, the 48-year-old older brother of five-time NBA champion Derek Fisher, was arraigned Wednesday on the felony charge, which is punishable by five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. According to WOOD TV in Grand Rapids, Mich., "court documents show he told investigators that he panicked."
Word of the alleged accident came down Tuesday afternoon, with John Tunison of the Grand Rapids Press reporting that Washington had been identified as the driver:
Ottawa County sheriff's deputies said a 2001 Jaguar struck Estella Vitins, a 70-year-old woman with dementia, as she walked west along the eastbound lanes of I-96 in Crockery Township about 2 a.m. today.
She had gone missing from her Sparta home the day earlier.
Vitins had driven her car along the freeway, but stopped near the six-mile marker and began to walk early this morning, police said.
The Jaguar's passenger-side mirror broke off upon striking Vitins. The driver did not stay at the scene and Ottawa County sheriff's detectives used a Silent Observer tip to track the vehicle and driver to an apartment complex near 60th Street and Kalamazoo Avenue in Gaines Township.
There, police found and arrested Washington on Tuesday morning. Later, according to court documents obtained by WOOD, he reportedly confessed to investigators.
According to court documents, Washington said he was traveling at about 70 mph eastbound on I-96 at around 2 a.m. Tuesday when he saw a woman in his headlights. He said he attempted to swerve, but claims he didn't know he hit Vitins at first.
Washington pulled to the side of the road. At that point, a witness pulls alongside his car and asks Williams if he saw the body in the road.
Washington allegedly told the witness twice, "I swerved ... I tried to swerve."
Then, the court documents say Washington told an Ottawa County Sheriff's detective, he panicked and left the scene.
Washington posted bond Wednesday afternoon and is due back in court on Sept. 25. Vitins is reportedly in fair condition at Spectrum Hospital in Grand Rapids after being treated for broken bones.
Her husband, Janis Vitins, told local Fox affiliate WXMI TV that she suffers from early onset dementia and had wandered off Monday evening without answering his questions about where she was going:
At 10 p.m., Janis called police to report her missing; five hours later, the phone rang. [...]
"Her right leg is broken in two places, I guess they put a rod and some pins in there and sutured up her face," Janis added.
So is he bitter toward Washington?
"I feel sorry for the guy, for her being in the road for him to do that, I'm sure he did not consciously do that." Janis said.
The Washington Bullets selected Washington, a 6-foot-4-inch, 195-pound guard out of Middle Tennessee State known for his quickness and rebounding, in the second round of the 1987 NBA draft, but waived him four months later. He played on a pair of 10-day contracts with the New Jersey Nets, earning a contract for the remainder of the '87-88 season, but received a two-year suspension in October 1988 for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
After the Nets released his rights in November 1992, he caught on for a couple of 10-day contracts with the Los Angeles Clippers, but didn't stick in the league. He spent the remainder of his playing career in Canada, Venezuela, Israel and Germany.