Man charged in 2017 hit-and-run that seriously injured people pushing car on 23rd Street

Related civil lawsuit pending

photo by: Douglas County Sheriff's Office

Andrew A. Walden

Updated at 3:20 p.m. Wednesday

A man has been arrested on charges from a 2017 hit-and-run crash that seriously injured multiple people pushing a disabled car on 23rd Street in Lawrence.

Andrew A. Walden, 25, of Iola, is charged with leaving the scene of an accident and two counts of aggravated battery, for allegedly recklessly causing great bodily harm to two people hurt in that accident, Rowena Racehorse and Dominic Oldman, according to the complaint filed in Douglas County District Court. All three counts are felonies.

The charges were filed in January, and Walden was arrested this week, according to court and jail records. Jail records indicate he was released on $7,500 bond and scheduled to appear in court later this month.

Those two victims, plus three others who were reportedly in or pushing the car when it was hit, also have a civil lawsuit against Walden pending.

That suit, filed in April 2018, alleges Walden was negligent, wanton and under the influence of alcohol when he crashed into the car and left the scene without lending aid or waiting for authorities.

The lawsuit says the plaintiffs suffered “economic losses, grievous physical injury, disfigurement, past and future medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity, past and future mental anguish and medically significant emotional distress.” They’re seeking damages in excess of $75,000.

The crash happened just before 1 a.m. May 19, 2017, in the 900 block of West 23rd Street.

An eastbound Dodge Neon had become disabled along the road, and some of the occupants got out to push the car out of the street, Lawrence police said at the time. A pickup truck rear-ended the Neon and fled the scene, continuing east on 23rd.

Four occupants of the Neon were hurt and taken to hospitals, police said. Two of them, a 21-year-old man and a 32-year-old woman, were considered in critical but stable condition.

Later the same day, police said they found the suspect driver, though he was not immediately arrested.

The civil lawsuit alleges that Walden had been drinking alcohol and just left the Taco Bell drive-thru when — without swerving, braking or honking — he crashed into the car. The lawsuit says the car was left “unsalvageable.”

Racehorse was rendered unconscious and, among other injuries, suffered a “deep laceration across the length of her face resulting in permanent disfiguring scars,” the lawsuit says. It says Oldman’s injuries included multiple right arm fractures that required numerous surgeries and “permanently reduced the use of his dominant hand and arm for the rest of his life.”

The lawsuit says Russell Oldman suffered bruises, sprains and “a limp in his right leg”; John Morrison suffered bruises and continued back and knee pain; and Maryah Preacher, the only occupant who didn’t go to the hospital, suffered bruises to her foot and arms.

In Walden’s written response to the civil lawsuit, he admitted to hitting the car from behind without stopping afterward but denied that their car was easily observable. He also denied he’d been drinking.

He also says the plaintiff’s claims about their injuries and losses are “vague and ambiguous” and “not of the nature and extent alleged,” according to the response.

A jury trial in the civil case is scheduled for December.

The Douglas County District Attorney’s Office addressed a question from the Journal-World about why criminal charges were filed so long after the crash.

Trial assistant Dorothy Kliem said, in an email, that the DA’s office initially received law enforcement reports the month after the incident, in June 2017, but that the case “required extensive follow-up investigation.”

She said the DA’s office received the final information it needed to file charges in January 2019 and issued a warrant for Walden’s arrest shortly thereafter.

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd


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