Bike Fatality: Driver Gets Three Months House Arrest

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Evan Hartkopf, 56, of Graham, the driver of the truck that struck and killed 19-year-old bicyclist Martin “Tino” Valencia Jr. Aug. 13, 2017 on state Route 507 was sentenced to 90 days in the Thurston County Corrections Bureau. 

Hartkopf was arrested for driving while license suspended in the third-degree Dec. 21 and will spend the remainder of his 90-day sentence on Electric Home Monitoring. 

“The State Patrol officer was a witness and there for the entire trial. He said he usually testifies and leaves but he wanted to see the verdict and testify,” said Theresa Valencia, Tino’s mother. “He was so rocked by this and he told us to call if we needed anything. He went so far above and beyond.”

Theresa was upset with the outcome and wanted Hartkopf to spend 90 days in the Thurston County Corrections Bureau. She does not believe house arrest is justice for Harpkopf’s negligent driving.

“Unfortunately he was able to set EHM up so he is now home,” Theresa said in a text message.

“I just found this out — it is so upsetting to know his family and friends are paying for him to stay out of jail. They apparently don’t care that he killed my son.” 

Tino left his McKenna home on the afternoon of Aug. 13 en route to Walmart. He was on his sister’s bike with $200 in his pocket that he earned by working for his dad, Martin Valencia with the intent to buy parts to fix his own bike.

Hartkopf was driving a Dodge Dakota pick-up truck southbound when he swerved into the shoulder and struck Tino. The truck came to rest partially blocking the southbound lane with the bike pinned underneath. He was driving on a suspended license and had multiple traffic violations before the August collision. 

“It’s hard to accept that he’s gone,” Theresa said of her son. “He was such an important part of our family.”

Before Tino passed, he would tell his family that he would die before he was 20 years old. It upset those that he told; they didn’t believe it to be true. Tino had Type 1 diabetes and autism but handled it better than anyone else according to Theresa. Martin said he used to try to convince Tino that with modern medicine, he could live a long, healthy life but Tino always had the premonition he would die young.

“He would say that his body wouldn’t last until he’s 20 and that upset me too,” Martin said. “He had an understanding that most people his age wouldn’t.”

Wise, sweet and smart are three of the most common words to describe Tino. Tino was getting ready to complete his last year at Yelm High School by earning his GED. Martin admired his son’s wealth of knowledge and was exceptionally proud when Tino built his own computer. 

“For some reason he could retain a lot of information,” Martin said. “Tino knew about everything, Tesla, World War II, Hitler, Einstein, everything.”

Tino had a dream to ride his bike down the West Coast but decided the plan was too dangerous after his parents convinced him otherwise. Instead, Tino and his father were going to build a Volkswagen Beetle and drive down the coast.

As soon as Tino’s family heard about the collision, Theresa knew they needed to keep her son’s dream alive. Theresa said they have been saving all of their spare change to take the entire family on the trip. Tino’s 9-year-old sister, Bella Valencia even made and opened a lemonade stand in the late summer to help pay for the trip. 

Tino was an organ donor and his family recently received a gold “Gift of a Donor Medal” and a letter from a young woman who received a part of his knee. The woman thanked Tino and his family for “giving her, her life back” as she is now able to walk up and down stairs again. 

His donations are expected to impact 30 to 40 people in need of organ, eye and tissue donations.

“Every bit of good that comes from this means so much,” Theresa said. “It’s all we can do, nobody is meant to lose a 19-year-old child.”

In tribute to Tino, his family released 20 red, heart-shaped balloons into the air, outside of their McKenna home last Tuesday. Red was his favorite color and 20 resembled how old Tino would have been if he were still alive. 

Shortly before Tino passed, he wrote a short story about his interpretation of the meaning of life. In the story he talks about humanity and how people must learn to harness positive energy to make it through dark times.  

Even on the darkest of nights, “you may be able to see our creator’s great vessel flying through the far heavens above,” Tino wrote.

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