Driver accused of killing homeless man in tent booked on vehicular homicide, felony hit-and-run

SEATTLE — A homeless man was killed early Monday morning when a car traveling north on Interstate 5 left the road and drove up a small hill.

Washington State Patrol says the driver of the Volkswagen Jetta ran over the tent — with the 19-year-old man sleeping inside — before slamming into a tree. The victim was later identified as Walter L. Burton.

Troopers said the driver of the car took off on foot, but he was eventually arrested at his home. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center to be checked out for his injuries and undergo a drug evaluation.

On Tuesday, the suspect, Oscar Gutierrez-DeJesus, was booked into jail on vehicular homicide and felony hit-and-run charges.

The Washington State Patrol said “this tragedy occurred due to the choice of one individual to get behind the wheel while impaired.”

Hours after the accident Monday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray stopped by the crash site and reiterated that more needs to be done to help the homeless.

Murray called the homeless problem a humanitarian crisis and talked about possibly looking at asking taxpayers to pay for more resources to help the homeless get off the streets.

“Given the size and scope of this crisis and the extent it’s growing, it’s growing quicker than our resources,” Murray said.

He said he doesn’t expect the state or federal government to help deal with the homeless problem in Seattle, and that’s why he believes he may have to possibly ask taxpayers to step up.

“What I’m proposing is have a discussion about whether we want to raise more revenue, to provide safer places for people," Murray said. "That’s the only options we have before us.”

People who live in the area, like resident Cameron Van Horn, say she knows something needs to be done. Van Horn lives has seen numerous people living on the street. She said she didn’t know the 19-year-old killed but felt compelled to do something.

“We decided to put up these signs just because we want to give him a last kind of memorial service,” said Van Horn, who placed a flower and small sign that read “rest in peace.”

Now, she says, something else needs to be done about homelessness.

“We have problem in this city and this area, especially along the side of the highway. We need to do something,” said Van Horn.