The first female Episcopal bishop in Maryland has been placed on administrative leave after she allegedly fled the scene of an accident involving a bicyclist in Baltimore on Saturday – but it reportedly isn't her first run-in with police.
Eugene Taylor Sutton, Maryland's top Episcopal bishop, confirmed Bishop Heather Elizabeth Cook's involvement in a letter to clergy on Sunday.
"I am distressed to announce that Bishop Heather Cook was involved in a traffic accident Saturday afternoon, December 27, that resulted in the death of a bicyclist, Thomas Palermo, 41. Bishop Cook did not sustain any injuries," Sutton wrote.
Police are currently investigating what happened and some news outlets have reported it as a "hit and run," even though Cook returned to the scene 20 minutes after she fled to take responsibility. However, Cook's initial decision to leave the site of the crash could potentially result in criminal charges.
"Because the nature of the accident could result in criminal charges, I have placed Bishop Cook on administrative leave, effective immediately," Sutton wrote.
Baltimore police said Palermo was still alive when they arrived on the scene. The victim was taken to Sinai hospital where he later died.
“He was alive after it happened. She might have been able to help or call for help if she’d stayed on the scene,” Lora Peters, a passerby to the scene of the accident, told Baltimore Brew.
Palermo was the owner of Palermo Bicycles, a bike shop in Baltimore. Welcoming customers to his website, Palermo wrote: "I am a one-man, frame shop offering made-to-measure lugged steel frame sets including road, fixed/single-speed, touring, and cyclocross as well as a variety of frame repair services."
The bicycle advocacy organization, Bikemore, released the following statement in response to Palermo's death: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Tom Palermo, who was killed while riding his bicycle on Roland Avenue. Tom was a passionate bicycle builder, a father, and a friend to many people who ride bicycles in Baltimore.
Cook's attorney, David Irwin, would not offer any comment to the Baltimore Sun, saying, "We're still evaluating."
In his letter to clergy, Sutton expressed "deep sorrow" and offered his condolences to the victim's family: "Please pray for Mr. Palermo, his family and Bishop Cook during this most difficult time."
Cook's driving has drawn the ire of police before, according to local reports. According to the Baltimore Brew, in September 2010, before she became a bishop, Cook was pulled over by police in Maryland where she tested .27 on a breathalyzer test. Cook allegedly had a bottle of whiskey, a bottle of wine and a marijuana pipe in the car with her at the time, according to police.
The Brew reports the marijuana charges were dropped and that she received "probation before judgment" for the other DUI charge. They matched the address in court records with her published address.
(H/T: Daily Mail)
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