Cyclists in Baltimore City are angry because the first female bishop of The Episcopal Church of Maryland has not been charged with murder after a hit and run accident on Saturday. Heather Cook hit Thomas Palermo and fled the scene leaving him there to die. The community of cyclists are demanding that she be charged for her crime.
Reportedly Cook fled the scene and was chased down by fellow cyclists who were also at the scene of the crime. Detective Jeremy Silbert, spokesman for Baltimore Police department, said officers were called to respond to a car accident at the 5700 block of Roland Avenue. Once they arrived officers found the 41-year-old man injured but alive. The biking enthusiast was rushed to Sinai Hospital but died from his injuries.
Bishop Cook was placed on leave from her ministerial duties according to Diocesan Bishop Eugene Sutton. He emailed clergy members to advise them that Cook, in an attempt to take responsibility for her actions, returned to the scene 20 minutes after the accident. He wrote:
Together with the Diocese of Maryland, I express my deep sorrow over the death of the cyclist and offer my condolences to the victim’s family. Please pray for Mr. Palermo, his family and Bishop Cook during this most difficult time.
The biking community is furious that Cook has not been charged with any crime. A Facebook page has been set up which includes more than 1,000 supporters. The page titled “Charge Bishop Heather Cook With Homicide” is filled with angry people who are seeking justice for the husband and father of two who was taken from his family. President of Bikemore, a biking advocacy group, Jed Weeks released the following statement:
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.
Weeks also stated although the details of the accident are not finalized, they do know that the driver of the car who hit Tom fled the scene, leaving him to die on the street. This also clarifies that lanes which have been dedicated for bicycles were not sufficient to maintain the safety of even an experienced cyclist. Bikemore is urging the justice system to hold Cook accountable for her actions.
Court records reveal that Cook was charged with driving under the influence, possession of paraphernalia and marijuana in September 2010. At the time of the arrest Cook registered a .27 blood alcohol level. The possession of marijuana and paraphernalia charges were both dropped and she received probation for the DUI.
Throughout the week many cyclists left bouquets at the scene while trading stories of their own incidents and close calls. Many of the city’s bicycle community are still puzzled how this could have happened in such a “bike-friendly” location. Katie Gore said, as she lay bunches of flowers at the memorial, that she always feels safe whenever she is there.
Gore and other cyclists who saw photos online of the Bishop’s smashed windshield said they have little sympathy for the driver who fled the scene. The images spoke volumes and according to Gore, “There is no way you could not have known you hit someone.” Executive director of Bike Maryland, Nate Evans, agrees with Gore and wants an aggressive prosecution of the case. He added:
This person left the scene without regard for human life. It is incomprehensible that we would have someone left dying on the roadside.
Palermo is survived by his wife Rachel, six-year-old daughter, four-year-old son and both parents. A memorial Mass will be held at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church on Saturday morning at 10 o’clock. The church is located in Towson on Ware Avenue. Thomas Palermo’s family will receive friends at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home on Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Bishop Heather Cook has yet to be charged for his death.
by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Main Photo by Bundokbiker – Flickr License