Man charged in fatal hit-and-run told police he hit something, but didn't think it was a person

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PITTSFIELD — The driver accused of fatally striking a man on Dalton Avenue in March told police he wasn't aware of what had happened at the time.

Robert Johnson, 51, of Pittsfield, said he was driving east toward Dalton about 1:30 a.m. March 31 when he felt his vehicle hit something but didn't know what, and he continued driving.

When police arrived, they found a woman performing CPR on the victim, Christopher Reynolds, who was unconscious along the side of the road near Plastics Avenue. The woman told police she saw a white SUV strike the man while he sat in the eastbound lane.

Reynolds was described as wearing a dark sweatshirt and pants and had "traumatic" injuries to his face, head and legs. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Johnson was summoned to court on Monday for his arraignment on a charge of leaving the scene of an accident causing serious injury or death.

Evidence found at the scene, including part of a fog light and bits of plastic, helped police identify Johnson as the driver.

Police used images culled from multiple surveillance cameras to identify a white SUV in the area before the crash and were able to trace the plate number back to Johnson, the registered owner.

With that information, police located Johnson at his workplace on April 1 and noted his SUV parked in the lot, with front-end damage consistent with a collision, a missing fog light cover and a broken license plate holder, which corresponded with evidence found at the crash scene.

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Police said Johnson admitted he was the the driver of the vehicle at the time of the crash, but he said he wasn't aware he'd struck anyone.

He said he noticed the damage to his SUV, but didn't realize that he had hit a person until he was made aware of news coverage of the crash the next morning, and had intended to contact police himself.

Johnson's passenger in the vehicle that morning told police they felt the impact of the crash, but Johnson said he was sure he had struck an animal in the road.

She said after learning about the fatality, the two had made plans to contact police, but wanted to get their affairs in order before doing so, according to a police report in the case.

Johnson pleaded not guilty in Central Berkshire District Court on Monday before Judge Jennifer Tyne.

He was released on personal recognizance and is due back in court for a pretrial hearing on June 19.

If convicted, Johnson faces at least one year in jail or up to 10 years in state prison.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@berkshireeagle.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.


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