A Department of Public Safety cadet was seriously injured in a hit-and-run accident Thursday night near the Mazatzal Casino on Highway 87.
"He was up here assisting with that big marijuana raid," said Sgt. John Whetten of the Payson DPS Office. "Apparently he and some friends were leaving the casino when he was hit by a DUI driver. He was pretty badly hurt, but is still alive."
Cadet Charles Hopkins was hit by Reed Hatch, 23, of Payson, who fled the scene, said Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner.
The incident occurred around 9:30 p.m., said Gartner.
Earlier that evening, the PPD responded to a call from the casino. A guest under the influence, said Gartner, was causing a disturbance.
"(Casino employees) were refusing to serve him and he was asked to leave," Gartner said.
The tribal police asked Hatch and a friend who were on foot near the Sonic drive-in to take the shuttle home, the chief said.
"(Tribal police) had security drive (Hatch and his friend) to (the shuttle), but apparently they didn't get on it," Gartner said. "They went to Hatch's car and started to leave the parking lot."
Gartner said Hatch hit Hopkins as he walked across the casino parking lot. The impact threw Hopkins into a ditch. Hatch then left the scene.
"It took us 20 to 30 minutes to track the vehicle down," Gartner said. "We interviewed Hatch and saw signs of significant impairment."
Hatch was arrested for aggravated assault and leaving the scene of an injury accident. He remains in custody at the Gila County Jail in Payson. DUI charges are pending blood alcohol results, which could take several weeks, Gartner said.
Gartner added responding officers weren't aware of Hopkins' position with DPS because he carried no official identification. Police spent several hours locating his family to notify them about the accident.
Hopkins was air-lifted to Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, where he listed in critical condition at press time.
Gartner said DPS is sending its vehicle-crime and special-investigations units to assist the PPD.