SALT LAKE CITY — Austin Bryson believes it was karma.
"You leave a guy on the street with a broken leg, you gotta get what’s coming for you. It’s karma,” he said Wednesday.
Bryson, 25, was riding his longboard on 500 East just after 7 a.m. on Feb. 4 when he was hit from behind by a car near Harvard Avenue. The driver kept going after the crash. Bryson received "permanent life-altering injuries," according to a police report.
He and his family searched "hard" for the white sedan that hit him, he said. But he admits after nearly a month of searching, they had slowed down.
Yet on Monday, Bryson and his brother saw something they didn't expect: a car matching the description was parked right outside their house.
"I peeked out and I knew, I just knew,” he said. "We started taking pictures of the car. It had dents on the hood and on top of the car."
The bumper of the car was being held on by zip ties, Bryson said.
He called the detective working his case directly who then went to Bryson's house.
"He said, ‘If this is the car, it’s going to be a one-in-a-million chance, but we hope it is,'" Bryson recalled.
The car was impounded and on Tuesday it was compared with debris left at the orignal crash scene, "including a damaged front bumper and damaged hood, a broken windshield and a damaged roof," the report states.
Investigators determined it was a match.
The owner, Roberto Joaguin Gutierrez, 21, of Salt Lake City, works next door to Bryson's residence, according to the report. Police later found out that Monday was his first day on the job.
After some investigation, police determined that Gutierrez, who previously had a job in the same area, was headed to work on the morning of the crash and "clocked into work … 13 minutes after the collision," the report states.
"Roberto alleged the vehicle had been stolen or tampered with between when he started work at (7:17 a.m.) and when he finished work at (3 p.m.), and the vehicle was returned to his parking space afterwards," police wrote in the report. "During this interview, it was established Roberto has never been issued a driver's license, was driving the vehicle on the previous owner's plates having never registered it, and had obtained employment … using his cousin's Social Security card and permanent resident card. … Roberto is an undocumented immigrant using his cousin's identification who resides in Mexico."
Gutierrez was arrested for investigation of failing to remain at the scene of an accident, not having a license, not having registration and identity fraud.
Bryson said he and his family are very happy the alleged driver has been arrested.
"It had been so long since the accident we thought he had already fixed it or was hiding it. We thought we weren’t going to find him. No one did,” he said.3 comments on this story
The crash left Bryson with a "severely broken leg," minor injuries to his spine, and a "serious scalp laceration," according to a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for his medical bills. The GoFundMe page includes graphic pictures of his head injury.
He said his recovery has been slow, and he feels like he's been on "house arrest" as he is unable to work and spends the majority of the days in his house healing. But Bryson said he also feels "lucky" and "blessed" to be alive.
Contributing: Andrew Adams