ST. LOUIS • A 15-year-old girl has been released in a fatal hit-and-run crash and two older teens have been charged after police say a scheme to blame the girl for the crash fell apart.
Police now say Dontae Jackson, 18, was driving the speeding Mercedes that hit Ashish “Bapi” Gupta on June 28. The car fled without stopping. Gupta, 50, died about a week after he was hit on South Broadway not far from Busch Stadium.
Jackson admitted he was driving the Mercedes at 80-90 mph when he struck Gupta about 2:30 a.m., police say. He was charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident and making a false report. His bail was set at $100,000 cash-only.
On Friday, police had announced the arrest of the 15-year-old, whose name has not been released. They said at the time that they believed she had been the driver.
It now appears that the girl was a passenger in the car. Jackson and his girlfriend, Trena Williams, 17, had told police the 15-year-old was driving, according to court documents. But another passenger said Jackson was behind the wheel, and Jackson eventually admitted that to police, according to authorities. Police said Jackson had taken the Mercedes that night from his aunt.
Williams admitted she had lied “at the request of the person who was actually driving the car,” police said in court documents. Williams was charged with making a false report.
The 15-year-old was released from custody. Her mother, Latinnia Phillips, 37, of the 2800 block of Osage Street, was issued a citation for “contributing to the delinquency of a minor.” She declined comment.
Jackson lives in the 5900 block of Lotus Avenue. Williams lives in the 700 block of Biddle Street.
Gupta was a Washington University graduate and had worked as a computer science instructor in the math department, according to an online obituary for him. He also was a computer consultant at the Sporting News before working as a delivery driver for several St. Louis restaurants.
A memorial was held Sunday at the Franklin Room in Soulard. Friends shared memories and auctioned off memorabilia to support a campaign to promote safety along South Broadway. They say they want the city to improve the safety of Broadway by perhaps using cobblestones, adding pedestrian crossings and improving lighting.
“I’m glad (the police) seem to be getting to the truth,” said Gupta’s mother, Genie Bee, of Santa Cruz County, Calif. “My biggest concern is that the city do something to make the area safer to pedestrians and bicyclists.”
Bee said she was told her son had just left Broadway Oyster Bar when he was hit. That’s near where Amber Wood, 23, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in April 2012. No one was ever charged in that hit-and-run, but a man from St. Louis was charged with trying to destroy evidence in the case after the vehicle that police suspect hit Wood was found at a scrap yard near Madison. The case is still pending, according to online court records.
A website has been set up called “Bapi Safe Streets,” an organization established by family and friends of Gupta to promote safety in the area. Bee said a vigil was being planned in St. Louis for July 28, exactly one month after Gupta was struck. Details of the event were not final on Monday.