By Jeff Gallatin
A spokesman for the family of a North Olmsted teenager killed in a hit-skip traffic accident on Brookpark Road last May 2 said they plan to seek changes in state law to require a mandatory charge for leaving the scene of an accident when a person is struck by a vehicle.
Kent Bowden said the plan stems from the Cuyahoga County grand jury choosing not to indict a Cleveland man in his 50s who had turned himself into police a few days after 15-year-old Malik Adams died after he was struck by a vehicle late at night on a dark area of Brookpark Road near Wal-Mart. Law enforcement officials from the North Olmsted Police Department, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office and the county coroner’s office investigated the matter for several months before the case was presented to the grand jury the week of Jan. 13.
Representatives of Adams’ family and friends met with officials from the prosecutor’s office Jan. 21 to discuss the case after the grand jury chose not to indict the man who had turned himself in to police.
Bowden said the family would like to see something come of the incident even with the grand jury’s decision to issue a no true bill, or to not indict.
“We would like to make a positive out of something that is a terrible negative with the death of Malik,” Bowden said. “We think something should be done. We would like to see a ‘Malik Adams’ law where someone faces some type of mandatory charge for leaving the scene of an accident where a person is hit by a vehicle.”
Bowden said officials from the prosecutor’s office informed them of the type of tests and the type of investigations done by the different law enforcement agencies in the months after the death.
“It sounds like they did a lot of work,” he said. “They checked the scene of the accident, ran tests on the man’s car, (and) examined videotapes and a lot of other detail-type work around the area.”
Law enforcement officials have declined to discuss what was presented to the grand jury, noting information presented in grand jury proceedings is not made public.
However, Bowden said the officials told him there are videotapes of the Cleveland man consuming drinks in a North Olmsted bar before leaving and getting into his vehicle and driving away. Bowden said the officials told him they believe the man’s vehicle struck Malik just a short time after he left the bar.
“The prosecutor’s office said they presented the information in ways in which they could indict for different charges based on the man leaving the scene and for the drinking,” Bowden said. “But they tell me the state law is pretty strict about what they can and can’t do based on the tests. They said the tests based on the number of drinks he had that were shown on the tape couldn’t show conclusively that he would be considered under the influence of the alcohol. That’s why we’d like to work on something where we could get some type of mandatory charge in cases like this. There’s got to be something that could be done.”
Bowden said he would be speaking to area legislative officials in an attempt to seek some kind of change in laws pertaining to this type of incident.
In addition to the lack of an indictment, Bowden said the family is also frustrated by the lack of lighting on the part of Brookpark Road where Malik was hit.
“It’s just way too dark for an area where a lot of people travel on the road and near businesses where people might be walking, too,” he said. “We’d like to see some kind of change there as well, but my understanding is that it’s been like that for years because of how the road was put together and because it’s near the airport. Apparently, they don’t want a lot of lights on some roads like that because they could look like a runway to some jets coming in.”
Joe Frolik, spokesman for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office, said the office would not be issuing any additional comments on the case. Frolik has said the office believes a thorough investigation was done by all the agencies involved.
North Olmsted police Chief Jamie Gallagher reiterated that the department’s thoughts go out to Adams’ family and friends at his loss. He said the department wouldn’t comment on the grand jury proceedings and said there isn’t much it can say about new laws.
“We enforce the laws that are on the books,” he said.