'How could you not pull over?': Cousin of woman killed in crash reacts to hit-and-run arrest

Family hopes death raises awareness against distracted driving

By Japhanie Gray - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - The family of a road construction crew member who was killed Thursday morning in a hit-and-run crash said they are not angry with the suspect, but are hurt that he never stopped to help.

Samantha Owens said she was at home when she got several messages regarding her cousin, Tracie Sheppard, 29.

“My phone was going crazy,” Owens said. “I looked quickly and saw ‘Samantha please call’ from all of my aunts and cousins. Like ‘Call us right now! We really need to talk to you!’ I looked on my aunt’s page and it said she had been killed.”

Sheppard had just loaded a construction sign on the back of her work vehicle when she was struck by a gray Ford Explorer on Loop 1604, according to San Antonio police.

FIRST REPORT: Family identifies female construction worker killed in violent hit-and-run accident on 1604

Police identified Christopher Gauna as the driver who left the scene of the crash. He was arrested Sunday on suspicion of failing to stop and render aid.

“We still haven’t processed it I don’t think,” Owens said. “I think it will hit all of us when we are at the funeral, but she was such a special person. My aunt, which is her mom, is just not ready to talk right now. She is an amazing woman and if you knew my aunt, you would see where Tracie got her personality from.” 

Owens, being an only child, said cousins like Sheppard never made her feel like she was the only child.

“We always spent time with each other,” Owens said. “Even though we lived like three hours away, my dad would go every weekend so we could see each other.”

She described Sheppard as shy and reserved, but amazing as well. 

“Once she got to know you, she was the most funny, sweetest, most honest person you could ever hope to meet,” Owens said. “She took command in such a kind of cool and calm way. You never second guessed where her intentions were. She was just a very honest and loving person.”

Owens said she'll always cherish her special memories with Sheppard. 

“Just spending time with her and my cousins outside and playing basketball all night to like two or three in the morning all together and watching horribly scary movies and hoping the adults didn’t wake up,” Owens said.

Sheppard’s service to others will live on in their family, Owens said.

“She died trying to make the roads in San Antonio safer,” Owens said. “That was just Tracie. Tracie is just all about and always has been about other people and their happiness and their well-being.”

Owens said their family is relieved knowing Gauna was arrested, but they still do not have closure.

“We are not angry. We are hurt because Tracie was so special," Owens said. "I mean, how could you not pull over? And then to never come forward and then they had to find your vehicle ditched. She deserved so much better than that.”

Owens said she wished Gauna had made better decisions. 

“Both sides are hurting," Owens said. "I just wished he had more courage to at least come forward to apologize or something.”

She said she hopes their family’s loss serves as an awareness against distracted driving for others.

“There is good that can come out of this,” Owens said. “People, we have just got to learn to put the phones down. There is no reason to be using it at all while on the roadways."

Owens said she also hopes this serves a reminder to people to cherish the time you have with your loved ones and to always stay in contact.

“Always reach out to each other,” Owens said. “Even if you don’t have enough money to visit all of the time. Reach out because you never know when it will be the last time you speak with each other."

If Owens could say one more thing to her beloved cousin, it would be a message of love.

“We love you, and I know I speak for my entire family when I say we are going to miss you,” Owens said. “I know you are in a better place and I can’t wait to see you again.

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