MILWAUKEE -- Christopher Covington pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, Feb. 4 to charges associated with a hit-and-run incident that happened outside Fiserv Forum 6th Street and Juneau Avenue on Nov. 9.
For the first time since the crash, Danielle Eager and her husband, Tony, came face to face with the man accused of striking them and their young sons.
"I want him to know that we are standing strong, even though our family is hurting," said Danielle Eager. "The whole emotional thing that we're still going through, I think that's going to take a lot of time."
Covington faces four counts of hit-and-run, injury, habitual criminality repeater. He is accused of striking the Eager family from Hartford with a vehicle prosecutors said was rented by his mother. Prosecutors said data from Covington’s phone, including Instagram videos, placed him in the driver’s seat at the location of the crash at the time it happened. According to prosecutors, Covington’s mother and a front-seat passenger told investigators he fled because he was wanted by police.
During Covington's preliminary hearing, the first officer to arrive on scene testified that investigators matched the striking vehicle to a Chevy Malibu rented by Covington's mother.
"He admitted to being a passenger in the car, but stated he was asleep at the time of the crash," said Officer William Hanney. "An Instagram video that switches between the forward-looking camera and the rear-looking camera or the selfie camera on the phone that shows Mr. Covington driving the car on MLK Drive from about Locust Street through the Fiserv area."
During cross-examination, Covington's attorney noted that a witness description of the driver from Tony Eager didn't match his client's appearance.
"It was a black male," said Hanney. "I believe he said he had dreadlocks."
"Dreadlocks?" Covington's attorney asked.
"Yes," Hanney replied.
"That was the driver?" Covington's attorney asked.
"That's what he believed," said Hanney.
"He can deny it all he wants, but videos don't lie," said Danielle Eager. "Just own up to it. Like honestly, be a big boy. Own up to it. I'm over these games. You hit four people. Let's cut it, you know?"
In court Tuesday morning, the court found probable cause and bound Covington over for trial, with a scheduling conference set for Feb. 27.
Background on the case
In mid-December, the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office said there would be no charges in the case because they were unable to determine who was driving.
The victims were frustrated by that decision -- worried they may never get justice -- and worried others could end up in the same situation if people who don't obey traffic laws aren't held accountable. At that time, police said a man and woman, both 21, were taken into custody as persons of interest.
The crash happened at 6:05 p.m. near 6th Street and Juneau Avenue on Nov. 9 -- as the Eager family, Tony Eager, Danielle Eager, 8-year-old Brayson Eager, and 5-year-old Dayton Eager headed to Fiserv Forum to see Jurassic World. It was the one and only time they planned on coming to Milwaukee in 2019 from their home in Hartford. Danielle Eager pushed her children out of the way -- taking the brunt of the impact -- jumping over her children to protect them. Tony Eager chased after the fleeing vehicle and was able to get a good look at the make and model and obtain a partial license plate number.
The criminal complaint said an officer inside Fiserv Forum saw several people run across the street, and then heard people yelling about pedestrians being struck. A 5-year-old boy was found unconscious in the street. Citizens were tending to him. An 8-year-old boy was found in the median with a leg injury. The children's mother was found on the ground, crying, with a leg injury. The father said they were struck while crossing in the crosswalk by a silver vehicle with Texas plates, including the letters, KCV. He said they were not quite halfway to the median when the silver vehicle started coming at them. He said he saw his wife fall off the hood of the vehicle -- which pulled over momentarily before speeding off. The victims were taken to the hospital.
Surveillance video showed the striking vehicle stopped at a red light at 6th and Juneau, the complaint said. According to prosecutors, the driver turned into the path of the family after entering the intersection to turn left when the light turned green. The driver stopped momentarily before taking off.
Investigators ran a check of vehicles with Texas plates that included the letters, KCV -- heading over to Hertz at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, where they learned a Chevy Malibu had been rented and was due back on Nov. 8. It was rented by Covington's mother, according to the complaint. It was found parked near 69th Street and Fiebrantz Avenue.
Covington's mother told investigators her son had borrowed the vehicle and said if he was involved in a crash and didn't pull over, it's because he has a warrant, the complaint said.
Covington was interviewed by investigators on Nov. 11, and the complaint said he offered several different versions of events, including that a friend was driving and he was asleep in the back.
An individual who indicated he was a front-seat passenger said they were going to pick up Covington's sister, and he saw the family in the intersection outside Fiserv -- and figured Covington did, too. He said after the crash, he yelled for Covington to stop, and Covington yelled back that he was "on the run" -- and fled, according to the complaint.
Investigators recovered Covington's phone, and data from that phone showed it was in the area of the crash at the time it happened.
Additionally, the complaint said one Instagram video from the phone, recorded at 6 p.m., five minutes before the crash, showed Covington in the driver's seat, smoking a blunt. Investigators determined they were near the area of MLK Drive and North Avenue.
A second Instagram video was recorded at 6:01 p.m., the complaint said -- again showing Covington in the driver's seat, headed southbound on MLK Drive near Juneau -- in the area where the crash happened at 6:03 p.m.
Online court records showed Covington was convicted in August 2019 of resisting or obstructing an officer. He was sentenced to 12 months' probation, with was withheld, and Covington was ordered to serve 30 days in the House of Correction conditional time with Huber release, and 25 hours of community service. Court records showed on Oct. 15, he failed to appear at the House of Correction, and his Huber/electronic monitoring privileges were revoked.
The complaint said Covington was convicted in August 2015 of maintaining a drug trafficking place.
A GoFundMe.com account was set up to help the Eager family pay medical expenses. CLICK HERE to access that account.