EAGLE TWP. — Police used security video from a fast-food restaurant to find the driver and vehicle they believe were involved in a fatal hit-and-run crash on West Grand River Highway on Aug. 11.
A Clinton County Sheriff's sergeant retrieved video from the McDonald's restaurant at West Grand River and Wright Road and saw images of a vehicle matching a description of the one involved in the crash that killed Tyler Ray Olson, 30, who was riding an electric scooter, court records indicate.
The silver Ford Edge had passed through a drive-through lane just before the crash, police said.
The sergeant ran the vehicle's license plate number and traced it to Jose Molina-Fuentes at an address on South Grange Road, east of Portland, police said. There, investigators found a silver Ford Edge in a detached garage with damage matching evidence from the crash scene.
Molina-Fuentes admitted he was the driver involved in the crash, saying he struck "what he thought was either a deer or maybe some trash in the roadway, and that he continued on back to his residence," Clinton County Undersheriff Mike Gute testified in a hearing that led to criminal charges against Molina-Fuentes.
Molina-Fuentes did not have a driver's license from Michigan or any other U.S. state, Gute testified. He told police he has a driver's license in Mexico, but police couldn't find confirmation on the Law Enforcement Information Network that he had "any type of driver's license, at all," the undersheriff said in the hearing.
Molina-Fuentes is charged with failure to stop at the scene of a fatal crash and driving with a suspended, revoked or denied license causing death, according to court records.
What police have not mentioned is that Olson swerved in front of Molina-Fuentes' vehicle, which never left its lane, according to his attorney, Michael Oakes.
"This is a very unfortunate situation," Oakes said in an email. "From the investigation it appears that Mr. Olson's scooter struck the lip of the roadway which caused him to lose control of his scooter and enter into the roadway in front of a vehicle being driven by Mr. Molina-Fuentes."
Olson, of Eagle Township, was struck and killed while riding an electric scooter about 11:06 p.m. along West Grand River, west of Hinman Road. Sheriff's officials said he was riding on the shoulder of the road with lights on and was wearing a reflective safety vest.
A witness said the driver of a westbound vehicle hit the scooter and didn't stop at the scene, Gute testified.
The Ford Edge found in the garage was missing its driver-side mirror and had damage to the driver's-side quarter panel, police said. It also bore a red streak on the corner of the hood and a lime green streak on or near a fender, both of which were left by the victim's clothing, the undersheriff said.
The driver's-side mirror was found on the road at the crash scene, he said.
Oakes said there were no rear lights on the scooter, and Molina-Fuentes didn't see any reflective clothing. His client believed he had struck a deer and went to work after the accident, with the intention of assessing the damage and contacting the insurance company in the morning, he said.
"At no time did he ever think for a second that he had struck a human," the attorney said. "Thankfully a neighbor, also thinking a vehicle hit a deer, entered the road to investigate and was able to call for medical services for Mr. Olson."
Molina-Fuentes was being held in lieu of a $30,000 cash bond, court records indicate.
The charges against him carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison upon conviction. A hearing to determine whether he should stand trial on the charges is set for Oct. 26.
Contact Ken Palmer at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @KBPalm_lsj.
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: How a drive-thru restaurant's video led police to an alleged hit-and-run driver