Belfast councilor injured in car-bicycle hit-and-run
Belfast — A Belfast City Councilor was hurt while riding his bicycle on Main Street Friday afternoon, March 8, after a police investigation revealed a 59-year-old Knox driver struck the bicyclist as he passed by, left the scene and later blamed the accident on his daughter.
Belfast Police Chief Mike McFadden said Belfast City Councilor Eric Sanders, 53, was back to work Monday morning, March 11, after being treated at Waldo County General Hospital Friday for a large cut to his ear as well as abrasions and bruises he sustained in the accident. The impact also rendered Sanders unconscious for a brief time after the accident occurred, McFadden said.
"He's tough as a boiled owl," McFadden said.
Initially police arrested 36-year-old Derri Lucas of Knox on several charges including aggravated leaving the scene of an accident in connection with the hit and run, but McFadden said further investigation indicated the driver at the time of the accident was her father, 59-year-old Steven Lucas of Knox.
McFadden said the initial report indicated Sanders, who at the time was only identified as a middle-aged man, appeared to be injured after somehow falling off the bike. The report came in to police at 2:22 p.m.
Belfast officer Brian Lunt responded to the call and when he arrived on the scene, McFadden said, Lunt noticed pieces of broken glass and plastic around the area of the bicycle.
"He determined at that point a motor vehicle had been involved," said McFadden.
A couple of eye witnesses came forward and told the officer they saw a white vehicle leading a maroon colored vehicle passing by Sanders in the seconds leading up to the accident, but McFadden said neither of the witnesses saw either of the vehicles hit Sanders.
"What they did see was a cloud of dust," said McFadden. "...When they noticed the cyclist on the ground they put two and two together as well."
The pieces of plastic on the road came from a side view mirror, and McFadden said it was difficult to determine which of the vehicles they may have originated from because it is not uncommon for vehicles of varying colors to have black side mirrors.
"We just didn't have much to go on," said McFadden.
Belfast police issued a notice to other law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for both vehicles and to pay special attention to vehicles fitting that description that also had damage to the passengers' side mirror.
Later that night, at 6:26 p.m., police responded to the report of a disturbance on Patterson Hill Road and Lunt responded to that complaint. Upon arrival, McFadden said, Lunt saw a red colored vehicle with a man who was later identified as Steven Lucas sitting in the drivers side seat. Lunt approached the passengers' side of the car, at which time McFadden said the officer noticed the side mirror was "dangling."
Lunt then determined the damage to the car was consistent with the pieces of glass and plastic Lunt located at the scene of the accident hours before.
McFadden said Lunt asked Steven Lucas if he had been involved in an accident in town earlier in the day and at first he said he didn't recall being in town. But then, the chief said, Steven Lucas said he had been to town and thought he saw a bicyclist fall down, after which he said he asked his daughter Derri Lucas if she hit a person on a bike.
"She said she had not, and they continued traveling toward the downtown area," said McFadden.
Moments later, McFadden said Derri Lucas approached on foot and was "extremely intoxicated." Because Derri Lucas was subject to bail conditions barring her from using alcohol or drugs, McFadden said Lunt and other responding officers tried to detain her, but she allegedly resisted. At that time, officers restrained the woman and arrested her on charges of violating conditions of release, refusing to submit to arrest or detention, possession of a usable amount of marijuana. As Derri Lucas was being detained, McFadden said the officers located the keys to the red vehicle that was parked a short distance away. At that time, police also charged Derri Lucas with aggravated leaving the scene of a personal injury accident and operating after suspension.
But, McFadden said, the plot thickened from there.
Because Derri Lucas remained combative and was unable to communicate with officers on the night of her arrest because she was intoxicated, McFadden said Officer Mike Rolerson went to Waldo County Jail to speak with her about the accident involving Sanders.
"She claimed it was her father who was driving at the time of the accident," said McFadden.
After asking Derri Lucas a few follow-up questions, the investigation led police to McDonald's, where surveillance video showed Steven Lucas entering the restaurant, making a purchase and returning to the drivers seat of the red car and leaving two minutes before the accident occurred. After speaking with employees at the restaurant, McFadden said police learned Steven Lucas was so intoxicated when he went in the restaurant that management sent an employee out to the parking lot in an attempt to keep Steven Lucas from driving away.
"They saw Mr. Lucas get into the drivers' seat and take off," said McFadden.
Once police learned those details, McFadden said the aggravated leaving the scene of a personal injury accident charge against Derri Lucas was dropped. The operating after suspension charge still stood, McFadden said, because surveillance video from Freedom General Store in Freedom showed Lucas was behind the wheel of the vehicle earlier in the day Friday.
Derri Lucas remained in custody Monday morning due to the other charges she faces, McFadden said, and now the investigation is focused on Steven Lucas.
McFadden said he felt the officers initially charged Derri Lucas because the investigation pointed in that direction, as did the comments from her father about the circumstances of the crash.
"What led the officers to believe it was Derri Lucas was the vehicle was owned by Derri Lucas' boyfriend, the father, in quite a believable way, communicated to the officers that it was his daughter who was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident on Main Street and she had the keys to the vehicle in her pocket," said McFadden. "...They made a probable cause arrest on the night of the incident based on the information they had."
McFadden said the officers acted appropriately given the information that was available to them at that point in the investigation.
"The investigation is now focused on Steven Lucas," said McFadden.