GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - The family of a driver accused of hitting and killing a pedestrian and leaving the scene said the accident was just a terrible mistake.
The accident happened Monday night around 10 p.m. in Duluth.
Police said Damian Arroyo Burgos, 44, hit a man on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. Darwin Dixon, 61, died at the scene.
Arroyo was arrested on Tuesday, 18 hours later, and admitted to hitting the man with his car. Police said Arroyo was in the country illegally and driving without a license.
Channel 2's Tony Thomas was the only reporter in the Gwinnett County courthouse Thursday as Arroyo faced a judge.
More than a dozen family members and friends came to court to show their support for a man they say is a community leader who was driving home from church.
His lawyer, Kalpin Shah, said the accident was just a terrible mistake and that Arroyo left the scene because he was scared.
"Our understanding is this was a mistake," Shah said. "He was driving and this was nothing more than a car accident."
Thomas talked to Hilaria Arellano, Arroyo's sister-in-law. His wife, Angela, was too distraught to say much.
"I'm very bad," Angela Arellano said through tears.
"It was just an accident," Hilaria Arellano said. "He wasn't expecting that to happen."
Arellano said Arroyo has been in the United States since he was 13 years old and he has been in the country for 26 years.
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Still, Arroyo isn't a legal citizen. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has put a hold on him, but his family lawyer told the judge Arroyo is working on his citizenship, is not a flight risk and should be let out on bond.
"He has applied for paperwork for his immigration matter," Shah said. "So there is a chance he won't be deported."
So far, bond has been denied. The father of three remains in jail.
Thomas learned that Arroyo had no previous record.
Arellano said the family is just sorry the accident happened, but they stand behind Arroyo.
"We are really sorry," Arellano said. "We wish it didn't happen, but it's not something we could control."
Thomas learned the victim had just moved to Atlanta from Arizona. He reached out to Dixon's family but hasn't heard back.
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