Friday, February 26, 2021
Feb. 26, 2021

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Man accused in hit-run death of pedestrian appears in court

Ernesto Estrada-Tapia will be arraigned on charges Friday

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor

A Vancouver driver accused in a hit-and-run crash that later resulted in the death of a pedestrian appeared in court Monday, where the judge was told the defendant has a history of driving offenses.

Ernesto Estrada-Tapia, 24, appeared in Clark County Superior Court on a warrant alleging vehicular homicide while driving under the influence or in a reckless manner, and hit-and-run driving causing injury or death.

He is accused in connection with the death of 27-year-old Christian Walton of Vancouver. On Jan. 11, Walton was walking with Nicole Bricker on a sidewalk when they were struck by a hit-and-run driver in the 11300 block of Southeast 10th Street. Bricker said the vehicle was speeding when the driver lost control on the icy and snowy road.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, Walton and Bricker were walking about 7 p.m. carrying bags of groceries in both hands. Bricker turned and saw a car traveling west on Southeast 10th Street. She began running, she said, when she saw the driver lose control. Before she could warn Walton, the vehicle struck both of them.

Bricker told investigators that they were struck on the left sides of their bodies and were thrown to the ground near the driveway to the Cascades Apartments, 11304 S.E. 10th St. The car did not stop and continued traveling west. Walton got up and started running after the vehicle but was unable to catch it. Bricker described the vehicle as a dark-colored sedan but was unable to provide any other information, the affidavit states.

Family members drove Walton and Bricker to Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center later that evening. They were treated and released. Bricker sustained a hematoma on her left thigh and leg. Several days later, Walton’s left ankle, calf and leg began to swell. He went to a rehabilitation facility in Portland for treatment.

After Walton’s second appointment Jan. 27, he came home, still in a lot of pain. He began grimacing and grabbing his chest, Bricker said, and when he stood up, he collapsed to the floor, according to court documents. First responders were unable to resuscitate him, the affidavit states.

The Clark County medical examiner determined he died of pulmonary thromboembolism — in which a blood clot travels to the lungs — caused by blunt leg trauma.

During the hit-and-run investigation, a crime analyst with the Vancouver Police Department found there were multiple calls made Jan. 11 in which a black 2008 Ford Focus with Oregon license plates was reported to have struck something. The car was traced to Estrada-Tapia’s girlfriend, Ashley Vanhorn, court records said.

Vanhorn told police that she, her roommates and Estrada-Tapia had been drinking at their apartment on the night of Jan. 11. Estrada-Tapia took her car, without permission, and she reported it stolen, the affidavit said. He called her later that night, “freaking out,” and obviously intoxicated, she said. He allegedly told her he hit two trash cans with her car. He later told her the windshield was broken, and he fixed it before returning the car to her Jan. 13, court records show.

Prior charges

On Monday, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jeannie Bryant said Estrada-Tapia has a history of committing traffic infractions and was convicted of negligent driving after the charge was reduced from DUI. She asked he be held on $150,000 bail.

Vancouver defense attorney Erin McAleer made a courtesy appearance with Estrada-Tapia. He said his client is a lifelong member of the community and that his parents and brother were present at the hearing. Still, he acknowledged the seriousness of the allegations and requested $50,000 bail.

Judge Bernard Veljacic said he would split the difference and set Estrada-Tapia’s bail at $100,000. He will be arraigned Friday.