Suspect in North Austin deadly hit-and-run arrested

Rafael Padilla, 28, was charged with fail to stop and render aid, a second degree felony. (Photo: Austin Police Department)

A man has been charged with last Monday's hit-and-run incident that left one man dead in North Austin.

According to the affidavit, on May 7, at around 2:10 a.m., Austin Police Officers responded to call about a deceased man who "had possibly been hit by a vehicle and a wheel chair nearby".

The incident happened at the 7800 block of N. IH 35 service road.

When police arrived at the scene, they found the victim, identified as 60-year-old Robert Copeland, lying on the street. He was declared dead at 2:22 a.m., says the affidavit.

Police say the vehicle that hit Copeland fled the scene.

After further investigation, it was determined the victim was riding his wheel chair when he got stuck. The car that hit him left a debris field.

According to court documents, a black plastic wheel well trim molding that was left at the scene had a number engraved and a Chrysler emblem. After searching that number, authorities found the vehicle was a 2011-2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

A day after the incident, crime stoppers received a tip with the vehicle's license plate number. Based on that number, officers were able to locate the owners of the Jeep who were a son and his mother.

Police were able to locate the mother, who said her son had gotten in an accident and had taken the vehicle in for repair.

The affidavit says officers located the vehicle at the repair shop, which contained collision damage with a missing piece: the black plastic wheel well trim that was left at the scene.

Police then interviewed the son, other owner of the vehicle identified as Rafael Padilla, 28.

Padilla told police he was driving his cousin and friend back from a bar and his eyes got itchy. When he stopped scratching his eyes, he saw an object on the road struck it, causing the vehicle to become disabled.

According to the affidavit, Padilla said that, along with his cousin and friend, he pushed the vehicle out of the roadway and called his mother.

When asked why he didn't call 911, he said it didn't come to mind.

Rafael Padilla, 28, was charged with fail to stop and render aid, a second degree felony.

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