LILLINGTON, N.C. (WNCN) – A Lillington man is credited with helping police catch a hit-and-run driver after he held the suspect at gunpoint until police could arrive.
Matt Cotten and his son witnessed a crash Sunday afternoon near their home outside Lillington on U.S. 421. Cotten says a motorcyclist was turning left when a Honda Civic, traveling at about 55-60 miles per hour, hit the motorcyclist and kept going.
Cotten says by the time he got to the motorcyclist there were already several people helping the victim, so he decided to follow the driver.
“I told my son, ‘This guy is trying to run. He just hit somebody and he’s leaving the scene. We’ve got to do something about it,’ ” said Cotten.
While they were driving, they noticed the damaged Honda Civic abandoned in a neighbor’s yard about half-a-mile from the scene. They then saw a man walking not far from where the damaged car was.
Cotten confronted the man and asked him if he was the driver who ran from the scene.
The driver responded by saying, “Yeah, what are you going to do about it?”
Cotten responded by telling his son to call police and got his gun out of his car.
Cotten, who has a concealed carry permit, held the suspect at gunpoint until police could arrive several minutes later.
“If I didn’t have my gun, this guy probably would have gotten away,” said Cotten. “The lawful use of firearms is a good thing and that is one right that we do not need taken away. You always hear of the bad stuff that happens with guns, you rarely hear about the good guys with guns.”
The driver, 21-year-old Christopher Ramirez, was taken into custody once police arrived.
He has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident, not having insurance or registration, driving while intoxicated and having an open container, police said.
The motorcyclist, Aaron Kinard, suffered major injuries to his leg and will have to undergo multiple surgeries in the coming months.
Doctors tell Kinard it will be months before he can walk again.
Kinard, who was hit while pulling onto the street where he lives, says he doesn’t remember much from the crash but considers himself lucky to be alive considering how fast the driver was going.
“It perplexes me because I was thrown quite a distance and hit straight on,” said Kinard, who was released from the hospital on Wednesday.
Kinard was able to thank Cotten for catching the suspect when Cotton visited him while he was at the hospital.
“If he wouldn’t have been there and wouldn’t have acted in the capacity that he did, the driver would have gotten away,” said Kinard. “You look at the size of the state and the amount of law enforcement that we have, they can’t be everywhere at once and it’s really up to citizens to look out for other citizens and that’s exactly what happened.”
Benton claims he didn’t think twice about doing what he did, saying he was raised to always stand up for others.
“If that was me, I would want somebody to get this guy and help bring him to justice,” said Cotten.
North Carolina state law grants the right for a private person to detain another person when he or she has probable cause that the person detained has committed in his presence a felony, a breach of the peace, a crime involving physical injury to another person, or a crime involving theft or destruction of property.
Ramirez is being held at the Harnett County Jail on a $10,000 bond