SEATTLE – The King Co. Medical Examiner's Office identified a homeless man killed in a tent along I-5 Monday morning as Walter Burton, 19.
Burton was struck by a driver during the Monday morning commute at the Northeast 50th Street ramp from northbound I-5.
The Washington State Patrol says the driver, Oscar Gutierrez-DeJesus, fled the scene and was later found at his home. Gutierrez-DeJesus, 33, admitted to drinking alcohol beforehand, and he was taken to Harborview Medical Center for a drug evaluation.
Gutierrez-DeJesus was charged with one count of vehicular homicide and one count of felony hit and run. He was previously charged with a DUI in 2007.
Homeless people who live near the scene say the victim was also known as Walter Stroud.
“God rest his soul,” said Brandon Fisher, who lingered at a nearby intersection, Monday, hours after a driver ran heading northbound left the road near Northeast 50th St. and collided with Burton’s tent.
“He was a street kid out here at the University District, just like most of us are, but at heart he’s a good kid,” Fisher said.
According to King Co. records, Burton was a registered sex offender who was not complying with offender requirements. Records show he also spent time in jail last year following convictions on three counts of voyeurism.
“I still don’t believe it,” said another homeless man, who did not want to be identified. He says Burton was his nephew. “Reality is going to set in, it's going to be like, damn,” he said.
18-year-old Cameron Van Horn lives nearby and volunteers with groups that help the homeless. She did not know the victim but planned to lay a flower and a note at the scene where the crash happened.
“It’s really upsetting hearing that someone was forced to be in a situation that they already were probably uncomfortable or didn’t feel safe in and then someone else took their life,” she said.
“The side of the highway has to be one of the most degrading and honestly one of the most challenging places to live in and call your residence,” Van Horn added.
A team of homeless outreach workers visited the crash site Monday morning and said they had made attempts to offer social services to the people who stayed here.
It’s not clear how long Burton had been sleeping along I-5, but Fisher said the young man had been homeless “as long as I can remember, as long as I know.”
The homeless camp was on WSDOT property.