City launches Safer Streets Initiatives after fatal accident in Heights

Mayor Turner and city officials announced the Safer Streets Initiative on Thursday to help improve safety and accessibility for pedestrians. The announcement comes less than two weeks after a deadly hit-and-run accident in the Heights killed two people trying to cross the street.

Just after 9:30 p.m. on March 30th, police said 63-year-old Jesus "Jesse Perez" was in his wheelchair trying to cross the street at North Shepherd near West 10th Street. At that moment, 55-year-old Lesha Adams was driving by with her two young daughters. Investigators said Lesha stopped her car and got out to help Jesse cross.

But the two never made it. 

"We were on Durham and 19th while this was happening. We heard police cars coming down. Little did we know it was Jesse. And for it to be the accident that it was, and we were so close to him, it's even more heartbreaking because we could've been there faster than the ambulance or the police cars could have, but we didn't know," said Amanda Martinez, Jesse's niece.

Michelle Colvard, a neighbor of Lesha, said she cried for days after learning about the 55-year-old's tragic death. 

"She was the person that would do anything for anybody and help anybody. She would just be an instant friend and advocate for you. And now I'll be an advocate for her," Colvard said. 

But' Colvard said her sadness quickly turned into anger.

"This was totally preventable. I'm angry because I've been in so many situations where I could've been killed and have almost been killed because of an inaccessible sidewalk and crosswalks," Colvard said.

At a news conference Thursday, less than two weeks after that fatal accident, Mayor Sylvester Turner and city officials announced the Safer Streets Initiative.

"For this very intersection, the stop at 7th street near the tragic fatalities will be removed. Pedestrians will be directed to the stop at 10th street which will receive access improvements," Turner said.

Carol Haddock, director of Houston Public Works said a new ramp, crosswalk and hybrid pedestrian beacon will be installed at the site of where Jesse and Lesha were killed.

"It actually is the type of crosswalk where a pedestrian could come up or roll up, and push a button. And it activates the signal to create a redlight for the cars," Haddock said.

Haddock said the new additions will be completed sometime this calendar year. 

A new service request line will also be added to the city's 3-1-1 call center. Turner will also be naming a safer streets coordinator dedicated to improving pedestrian safety and holding the city accountable.

Jada Mimms, 20, has been charged with two counts of failure to stop and render aid in connection with this case. Investigators said Mimms initially fled the scene but eventually returned after police said a family member convinced her to turn around.