Police want to know who struck a Denver-based Native American man with their car and then left him in the street wounded and vulnerable.
Isaac Wak Wak, 71, who is of the Colville Tribe of Washington, was leaving the Denver Western Stock Show late on January 25 when he became the victim of hit-and-run. The driver hit the brakes for a moment after striking Wak Wak and then fled, according to witnesses.
“We heard the screech, the thunk and then McKala [said], ‘Call 911',” witness Karen Nickle told Kent Erdahl of Denver Fox News affiliate KDVR. McKala is Nickle’s daughter.
Isaac Wak Wak at the Rocky Mountain Indian Chamber of Commerce Gala in 2011. Photo courtesy Carol Berry.
“When I did get into the street I could see the car,” Nickle said. “And then you heard it switch gears and it left.”
The mother and daughter were the first on the scene and stayed with Wak Wak as he lay in the street. They directed traffic away from him until first responders arrived.
Wak Wak’s sister, Diane Yankton, invited the pair to meet the man they likely saved at his hospital bed. She referred to the pair as “little angels.”
“If it wasn’t for them he could have gotten injured even more,” Yankton told KDVR. “They’re like little angels, you know, when they walked into the hospital room I just said, ‘You two are the ones who actually took care of him. You saved him, you protected him from other cars running into him because he was just laying there in the dark’.”
More than a week later, police have still been unable to identify the driver.
Wak Wak, who suffered broken arms and legs and a broken pelvis, said from his hospital bed he cannot understand how someone could hit a person with their car and then drive off.
“I’m very upset with them,” he told KDVR. “And they should care. Somewhere along the way they are going to get theirs.”
Wak Wak is a beloved figure in the Denver Native American community. Family friends have since launched a Go Fund Me page asking the community to donate money to help with Wak Wak’s hospital bills.
Isaac Wak Wak, center back, poses with family for photographer Viki Eagle's project, 'Real Life Indian.' Photo courtesy Viki Eagle.
“He’s such an amazing and loving person who worked his entire life, lived in the biggest cities, made many friends across Indian Country and took them as relatives,” the Go Fund Me page reads. “It's time to come together to lift his spirits and support him spiritually and financially!”
Wak Wak is also well-known throughout the pow wow circuit, and Yankton is concerned the incident will keep him from dancing for quite some time.
“This is going to have a huge impact on his life,” she told KDVR. “It’s going to take him a long time to recover.”
Witnesses described the car as a dark – possibly black – foreign, souped-up, sporty sedan, with a spoiler on the back. Denver has recently experienced a large number of hit-and-runs throughout the city. In 2012, there were 6,600 victims of a hit-and-run. In 2013, there were 5,500 victims, NBC News affiliate 9News reported.
Anyone with information about the crime should call the Colorado State Patrol.