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Police arrest driver suspected in fatal hit-and-run involving USF student

Police have arrested the individual involved in the hit-and-run incident that killed USF researcher Kayoko Ishizuka .

Shawn Lee Burton, 29, was the driver of the red Ford Explorer that hit and killed Ishizuka, while she was riding her bicycle Sept. 25. He was arrested Tuesday by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) officials.

HSCO spokesman Larry McKinnon said the owner of the vehicle contacted the police the day of the fatal accident after seeing media reports describing his vehicle.

The owner said he allowed Burton, his sister’s boyfriend, to borrow the car that day. McKinnon would not release the owner’s name.

“On the day of the traffic crash, the owner had spotted some damage on his vehicle and asked the individual who we ended up arresting how that damage occurred,” McKinnon said. “Of course, his response was that he had hit a deer. Later on that day, when he heard the media reports that a red Explorer was used in a fatal traffic crash, he became suspicious and notified the sheriff’s office.”

After the call, detectives determined that Burton was the driver of the vehicle at the time of the hit-and-run, McKinnon said.

“That was the pivot point that gave detectives enough information to start backtracking this individual’s whereabouts the night of the crash, along with his girlfriend, who has been known to drive the car,” he said. “Based on the information that they would get from other witnesses, along with some forensic evidence, (HCSO officers) were able to positively put him behind the wheel at the time of the crash.”

According to the police report, Burton is charged with “leaving the scene of a traffic crash with death.”

McKinnon said if Burton is not granted a jail bond, or bailed out if he does receive one, he will then go to court against the state attorney.

“What will happen now is that he will be arraigned and formerly indicted in the court system,” he said. “He will have the opportunity to bond out if he is provided with a bond. Then, it’s a matter of him bringing forth his defense and the state attorney’s office presenting their case of evidence against him. Ultimately, it’s the court’s decision.”

Ishizuka was a USF postdoctoral student and researcher at the Department of Molecular Medicine. The accident occurred as she was riding her bicycle on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, in the bicycle lane by University Square Drive, after leaving the department’s laboratory at 1:40 a.m.

In an e-mail, University spokesman Michael Hoad said USF, the College of Medicine and the Department of Molecular Medicine have set up a travel scholarship in her memory.

“The University of South Florida continues to mourn the loss of one of our best and brightest postdoctoral students,” he said. “(We) will watch the case as it goes to court.”