Driver Admits on TV Leaving Retired Teacher to Die in a Hit-and-Run: 'I'm Not Worried'
"I didn't do nothing on purpose," Phocian Fitts told a TV reporter after he said he was driving and hit 80-year-old Theodore Schwalb on Commonwealth Avenue
A 23-year-old Massachusetts man was arrested on Wednesday after admitting on TV that he was the driver in a hit-and-run earlier in the day — leaving behind an 80-year-old retired art teacher to die.
“Right now I’m not worried about nothing, man, like I said I’m not a stone-cold killer. I didn’t do nothing on purpose,” Phocian Fitts told local news station WFXT, arguing, “People hit and run people all the time.”
The crash was first reported Wednesday afternoon. Boston authorities responded to a 911 call about a pedestrian struck by a vehicle about 12:50 p.m. in the area of 1316 Commonwealth Ave., according to a police report obtained by PEOPLE.
The victim, Theodore Schwalb, was found suffering life-threatening injuries at the scene and was transported to St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, but he did not survive.
Fitts was first questioned in the hit-and-run before being approached by a TV reporter. However, when speaking to investigators, he gave only limited answers and was released without being charged, prosecutors said.
In the hours between his police interview and his arrest — all on Wednesday — Fitts agreed to speak about what happened, telling WFXT the crash was unintentional.
“I was listening to my music, but as I’m driving, I’m driving too quick,” he said. “So I’m driving too quick to the point where it’s like I couldn’t really stop, but it was a green light. So as the guy was walking — the light is green, I’m driving, and I’m pressing the horn, pressing the horn, ‘beep, beep, beep, beep.’ It was either I was going to die and crash into a pole. So when it came down to it, man — accidents happen, man.”
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
After obtaining footage from a Jeep dashboard camera traveling behind Fitts at the time of the crash, the DA’s office concluded that he did not “brake before or after the fatal collision” while Schwalb was walking in the crosswalk.
Authorities said that based on Fitts’ admissions — along with additional physical evidence, witness interviews and other information — he was taken into custody about 10:30 p.m.
He was arraigned Thursday on charges of motor vehicle homicide and leaving the scene of a collision causing death, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. Under state law, a plea of not guilty was entered for him.
• It was the scandal that rocked America’s most storied political family and changed the course of presidential history. PEOPLE‘s first-ever podcast, Cover-Up, dives into the Chappaquiddick scandal and attempts to piece together what happened in the hours after Ted Kennedy’s car went over a narrow wooden bridge, killing his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne. Subscribe now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or wherever podcasts are available.
Bail was set at $10,000 and, if released from jail, he was ordered to wear a GPS monitor and not drive. He had been on probation for beating a mail carrier in 2014, according to WBZ.
Patrick Sheehan, Fitts’ attorney, had no further comment on the case when reached by PEOPLE on Friday.
He is scheduled to return in court on June 25 for the appointment of permanent counsel, according to prosecutors.
Speaking to the Boston Herald, Schwalb’s nephew described him as someone who “loved good humor, good food and good conversation,” with a determination “to make life as entertaining as possible.”
He “made a splash wherever he went,” his nephew said.