Victim's family says she saved children from driver in fatal hit and run


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Originally Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2012, 5:52 pm
Last Updated: Sept. 21, 2012, 9:09 pm
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By Rachel Warmke, rwarmke@qconline.com

Nearly 45 relatives of Sandra Tate gathered outside the Rock Island County Justice Center on Friday as the man accused of killing her had his first court appearance on first-degree murder charges.

Ms. Tate 43, died early Thursday morning at University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City, where she was taken after being struck by a car Wednesday night. Results from a preliminary autopsy were not available Friday evening.

Jeremy Charles Graves, 25, whose last known address was 1025 Scott St., Apt. E1, Davenport, made his initial appearance on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated battery of a police officer and leaving the scene of an accident involving death.

A prelimiary hearing was set for Oct. 2, and Mr. Graves was returned to the Rock Island County Jail, where he was being held late Friday on $750,000 bond.

The charges stem from an incident Wednesday in the 900 block of 15th Street in Rock Island, where police were sent around 11 p.m. after receiving several 911 calls about a domestic disturbance, according to Rock Island Deputy Police Chief Jeff VenHuizen.

He said an altercation had occurred between Mr. Graves and people at a home in the area after Mr. Graves had come to pick up his child.

Officers arriving at the scene allegedly witnessed Mr. Graves drive a 2005 Buick in a circle in the middle of 15th Street, the deputy chief said. Mr. Graves proceeded to allegedly drive onto the sidewalk and back down onto the street, where he then drove into a group of people, allegedly running over Ms. Tate.

Afterwards, Mr. Graves attempted to elude officers by driving back onto the sidewalk and turning the vehicle onto 9th Street, where he hit a parked trailer. He then left the vehicle and fled on foot, according to Deputy Chief VenHuizen.

When police caught up with Mr. Graves, he allegedly hit one of the officers in the face before he was apprehended, police said.

Outside the courthouse on Friday, Ms. Tate's relatives expressed their grief and disbelief at what many called a "senseless" act.

Gwenette Robinson said that on Wednesday night, Ms. Tate, upon seeing Mr. Graves drive his vehicle into the middle of 15th Street, moved several children out of the way of his oncoming vehicle.

"In order for them not to die, she pushed them all to the curb and she took the hit," Ms. Robinson claimed.

Ms. Tate's aunt, Mary Toney, of Rock Island, said she had raised Ms. Tate from childhood and was shocked when she heard the news.

"I couldn't believe it," she said. "Sandra was always smiling and helping people out until she died - that's just the way she was," Ms. Toney said, her voice catching.

Disbelief quickly spread throughout the family as more individuals learned of the incident.

Ms. Tate's daughter, Brittany Johnson, 23, of Chicago, said she was woken by a phone call Wednesday night with the news that her mother had been run over. She had driven through the night and arrived in the Quad-Cities around 5 a.m. Thursday morning.

"Justice will be served," Ms. Johnson said.

Family members had come with her to the courthouse Friday afternoon, she said, for support and to ensure the story of her mother's death would be heard. They were not, however, permitted into the courtroom, they said.

Additionally, several individuals outside the courthouse were instructed by deputies to leave the area after exchanging harsh words with one another.






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