STOP FOR STUDENTS

Utah teacher frustrated after hit-and-run driver not charged

May 13, 2022, 9:19 AM | Updated: Nov 3, 2023, 4:07 pm

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — A teacher in the Granite School District is speaking out, frustrated that the justice system so far isn’t holding a driver accountable who hit her outside Hunter High School and took off.

The hit-and-run was caught on camera showing the vehicle, along with witness statements about the alleged driver. But the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges — saying there’s a reason why they made that decision.

Dawn Pentico has the surveillance video and the police reports that outline a clear picture of what happened to her in October as she walked into work after lunch.

In the video, she’s seen crossing the crosswalk in the bus lane in front of Hunter High School. A white SUV is parked nearby as Pentico crosses.

“I heard squealing tires and the car that had been sitting in front of the flag pole had gone into reverse, and the driver had been spinning out, going backward, and did not look behind him and hit me as I was in the middle of the crosswalk,” Pentico remembered.

She also has the driver’s description from what she saw, and from what witnesses told police.

A student later identified through surveillance footage got into the SUV, and Pentico explained that the driver stepped out to see what happened.

“He got out of the car and asked me if I was okay and I said, ‘No, no. Help!’” She recounted. “And he told me, ‘OK, hold on. I’m going to go park.’”

Pentico has the horrible memory as the driver, instead, taking off — driving slowly past her and staring out the window before driving away.

“I think physically getting hit by a car I could get over that. Emotionally being left in the street like garbage, is something that I don’t think I’ll ever get over,” Pentico expressed.

She had broken, cracked and bruised bones all over her body, as well as sprains, and said she still has long-term nerve damage.

And her case has the student who got into the vehicle identifying his dad as the driver.

But despite having all these things in what would appear to be a cut-and-dry case, Pentico doesn’t have justice.

“They told me that they had charged the driver with a third-degree felony that resulted in serious injury,” Pentico said, explaining what the Granite School District Police Department told her.

That driver, according to the police report, is identified by the student who got into the car as his father.

But Pentico said police let her know that the district attorney rejected the charges.

“It says that if you run away and don’t cooperate, there’s a good chance that you’re not going to face any of those consequences,” she said.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill explained why his office declined the charges.

He indicated that after his team reviewed the case, they determined they needed further investigation done by Granite Police.

“We said that, ‘Here are five pieces of evidence that are needed, that we’re noticing that is missing or we need you to buttress or add to, and then we will rescreen it again,’” Gill explained. “And that’s what the status of this case is.”

Because of the ongoing investigation, Gill said he couldn’t disclose the five pieces of evidence missing from the report submitted to his office.

Gill read part of a letter written to the department from the DA’s office, explaining that “in order to proceed with the filing of charges in this case, we will need the following information at the soonest practicable time.”

That was on March 10. He said they haven’t gotten the case back from police with those five things to take another look.

“We want to make sure that we do have the right person with the right evidence, and we’re following the law, and we’re prosecuting for right reason,” Gill said.

For Pentico, that means she has to wait on Granite police.

“I am frustrated with the system and the process,” she said.

And now, she has the uncertainty over if the person responsible will ever be held accountable.

She said she feels she’s the one living with the consequences of the hit-and-run when she did nothing wrong.

“It just makes me feel victimized again, and again. And I don’t want to be the victim,” she said. “I don’t want this to affect my life for the rest of my life.”

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Utah teacher frustrated after hit-and-run driver not charged