Prosecutors have filed charges against two men suspected of assisting a drunken driving suspect who is accused of killing a Durango firefighter in August.
Tremon Rice, 23, and Ar’mon Hickson, 24, were charged with leaving the scene of an accident, a class 3 felony; and accessory to a crime, a class 5 felony.
Rice and Hickson attended Fort Lewis College in the fall and were members of the 2022 Skyhawks football team. Hickson played quarterback. Rice, a defensive lineman, is listed on the roster for 2023.
A third man, Emmanuel Nwosu, 24, was charged, but prosecutors have since dismissed those charges. He was also a member of the 2022 Skyhawks football team.
Rice and Hickson are considered co-defendants of Lorenzo Jones, who is suspected of hitting and killing 49-year-old Scott Gallagher.
Jones, 20, is charged with vehicular homicide-DUI and leaving the scene of a crash involving death.
Jones is accused of hitting and killing Gallagher, who was riding a bicycle, just after 2 a.m. Aug. 7 near Aspen Drive on Florida Road. When police arrived, they found a blue Ford Crown Victoria registered to Jones abandoned in the road with a bicycle under the front bumper and Gallagher’s body through the front windshield of the vehicle, according to an arrest affidavit.
All three men waved their right to a preliminary hearing. Hickson is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 26. Jones and Rice are scheduled to be arraigned March 3.
While investigating the accident, patrol officers and detectives with the Durango Police Department spoke with multiple witnesses and developed probable cause to believe a white Kia K5 rental car with Arizona plates was involved in the incident. It was traced to Rice, according to police affidavits.
According to police affidavits, these events unfolded during the early morning hours after the hit and run:
A witness reported hearing the crash involving the cyclist and looking outside her window and seeing the Crown Victoria, which was stopped on the side of Florida Road against a fence. She said a “white sedan” that police later identified as the Kia they believe was driven by Rice, pulled up next to the Crown Victoria, driven by Jones, and that the two talked.
She heard one of them say something along the lines of “Get the (expletive) out of here!”
The Kia then drove away but returned a couple of minutes later. Jones exited the Crown Victoria and entered the back seat of the Kia, which drove east on Florida Road.
A second witness told investigators she was awoken by what she believed were two vehicles racing on Florida Road just after 2 a.m. She looked out the window of her second-floor apartment and saw the Crown Vic stopped against a roadside fence. She watched as the Kia pulled briefly alongside the Crown Vic before leaving and then returning.
She then overheard the conversation between Rice in the Kia and Jones, who she said were the only occupants in the vehicles. The witness said Rice kept yelling, “Is he dead?” And that Jones replied “He’s dead.” To which Rice replied, “We gotta get outta here.” Then Jones left with the pair in the Kia.
Later in the morning police located the Kia, which had blood on a back door handle as well as glass and blood on the back seat, parked at an apartment complex located at 1304 Florida Road.
Police interviewed five “occupants” at one of the apartments, which included Rice, Hickson and Nwosu, along with April Valino and Reisha Adams. Rice confirmed the Kia was his and told police he lent pants and a sweater to Jones. Police then found blood-covered clothes worn by Jones at the time of the crash in a trash bag inside the apartment.
Police reviewed security camera footage at the apartment complex, which showed the Kia pulling into the parking lot at 2:12 a.m. and dropping off three people before “quickly” backing out of the parking lot and leaving. Police identified the three individuals as Hicks, Valino and Adams.
The Kia returned at 2:16 a.m., and Rice and Jones exited. Hickson, Nwosu, Rice and Jones are seen talking near the vehicle. In the footage, investigators said “Jones appears to be distraught” and that Rice, Hickson and Nwosu “appear to console him by putting their arm(s) around him.” Jones is then led to the apartment by the three men.
During the next hour, Rice and several others from the apartment are caught on camera walking outside and looking into the back seat of the Kia. They also look down Florida Road toward the site of the crash several times. Police believe they were checking to see if police or emergency vehicles were at the scene.
Rice is seen making a call on his cellphone at 3:16 a.m. Hickson is seen at a different camera angle answering his phone. Investigators believe Rice called Hickson to tell him police were not in the area and it is safe for Jones to come out.
Seconds later, Jones walks through the parking lot accompanied by Hickson and Valino. Jones then gets into a dark sedan driven by an unknown person and leaves the complex.
According to FLC registrar’s records, Rice is not enrolled for spring semester. Hickson graduated in December.
Fort Lewis College staff told to stay quiet
Fort Lewis College staff members in the athletics department were directed by the department head not to publicly discuss a fatal crash involving several of its football players, according to an employee who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution from college officials.
The athletic director held a meeting at 9:15 a.m. Aug. 15 – about a week after the crash – to direct about 30 staff members not to discuss the crash and to refer any media inquiries to the school’s public relations department.
“They were trying to get ahead of not having athletics connected to it,” the employee said. “That never sat well with me.”
FLC spokeswoman Lauren Pope said relevant college departments were instructed not to talk to media and to refer any inquiries to the athletic director and college spokesperson.
“We are legally obligated to protect the privacy of students and to not discuss any student discipline and grievance procedures, as that information is protected student records,” she said.
The Durango Herald only recently learned from the employee requesting anonymity that three FLC football players were closely involved with the Aug. 7 crash that killed Durango Fire Protection District firefighter Scott Gallagher.
Lorenzo Jones is suspected of drunken driving when he struck Gallagher, who was riding his bike shortly after 2 a.m. along the side of Florida Road. Two other men, Tremon Rice and Ar’mon Hickson, are suspected of assisting Lorenzo and failing to report the crash.
The employee said it was acknowledged early in the staff meeting that a life had been lost, but the narrative quickly switched to damage control.
“It felt like we didn’t want to own it, and to me that was wrong,” the employee said. “It’s just bothered me for a long time. I’ve lost sleep.”
– Herald Staff