Cops’ Extra Presence in Palm Coast’s Tornado-Damaged B-Section Helps Lead to Hit-and-Run Arrest
FlaglerLive | December 16, 2013
Jazzper Que Leonard, a 20-year-old resident of Palm Coast’s Point Pleasant Lane, was on his bicycle on Belle Terre Parkway early Sunday morning, just north of the intersection with Palm Coast Parkway, when he was struck by a brown sedan—and the car allegedly fled the scene. The car struck a pedal, Leonard fell, sustaining abrasions to his lower left leg, according to a police report. He declined to be taken to a local hospital.
By 7 a.m., Wendy Labell, a 55-year-old resident of Bayside Drive—one of the areas most damagingly hit by Saturday’s tornado—was being booked at the Flagler County jail on a hit-and-run charge, with injury.
Leonard told a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy that he believed the vehicle that struck him was a brown Chevrolet Impala. He had no license plate number. Deputies had a witness: a woman who had been riding her bike ahead of Leonard. The pair was riding home after leaving the Kangaroo Gas Station. She told police she saw a tan vehicle strike Leonard and continue north on Belle Terre.
Shortly after a passerby called 911, deputy Christopher Wray, who was assisting FPL at the intersection of Bannerwood Lane and Bayside Drive in storm-related activities, observed a tan Chevrolet Impala traveling east on Bayside just past his location. Wray said the vehicle tried to make an abrupt left turn into the driveway of 154 Bayside Drive, almost driving onto the front yard of the residence. The vehicle then backed up and pulled into the driveway, striking a garbage can positioned in front of the garage.
Some 30 sheriff’s deputy units had fanned out in the area of the tornado damage, patrolling the area and keeping a vigilant eye on any unusual activity.
Wray then saw a white woman exit the vehicle, inspect it for damage, and walk into the house. Wray described an elderly white woman wearing a red robe standing at the doorway to the residence, waiting for the driver “as if she were expecting her arrival precisely at that time,” Labell’s arrest report states. Wray would later identify the driver as Labell.
Cpl. Kevin Byrne meanwhile recovered a portion of a side view mirror at the scene of the crash. The Impala in the driveway of 154 Bayside Drive had damage to the passenger sideview mirror. Byrne brought the mirrored piece of the mirror to the Bayside address, where the arresting deputy matched the object to the Impala.
“After further inspection of the damaged side view mirror, a single long black hair, consistent with that of Mr. Leonard’s, was discovered on the passenger side view mirror,” the arrest report states. Leonard has long dreadlocks.
When confronted with deputies and read her Miranda rights, Labell agreed to speak to police without representation. She told police she’d been driving north bound on Belle Terre Parkway towards her residence “when she heard what she believed to be her vehicle ‘backfire’ near the intersection of Palm Coast Parkway and Belle Terre Parkway,” the police report relates. Several deputies were present when Labell was describing the incident, so was Labell’s mother, who said, according to the report: “That car doesn’t backfire, what are you talking about?” One deputy said Labell’s “account of the incident changed various times while she was on scene.”
“Based on the victim and witnesses account of the incident,” the arrest report states, “and description of the suspect vehicle, the recovered portion of the side view mirror which was determined to come from the suspect’s vehicle, the suspect’s statement, along with the fact that a reasonable person would have seen the bicyclist traveling, and stopped after hearing what might have been a crash, Ms. Labell was arrested for Leaving the Scene of a Crash with Injury.” She was booked at the Flagler County jail.
The accident is the latest in a string o such accidents involving vehicles striking bicyclists at various intersections in Palm Coast, despite the city’s efforts to add bike paths or broad sidewalks that bikers use.