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Police determine no crime in I-70 death

Thursday, December 19, 2013 | 6:25 p.m. CST; updated 7:27 p.m. CST, Thursday, December 19, 2013

COLUMBIA — An investigation by the Columbia Police Department determined that the driver of the truck that struck the man whose body was found on Interstate 70 on Oct. 26 didn't commit a crime.

"The investigation of the accident concluded that the bicyclist was at the main traveled portion of the roadway (driving lane) and was struck,"  Sgt. Joe Bernhard said. "There was not probable cause to determine there was a crime by the driver of the truck."

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Ennis Marquis Patrick, 36, of Columbia, was struck by a semi-truck on Oct. 26 on I-70. He was not identified until Oct. 30 as a result of DNA testing. 

In addition to the department's investigation into the incident, police also conducted an administrated review to determine why there was a delay in officers discovering that the accident involved a person, according to a release from the department. Bernhard said the incident had been assumed to be a driver verses deer case until the victim was found after several forwarded calls from the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

"I have never had an accident like this happen before," Bernhard said. "I've only seen a few people hit on highways in my 22-year career that were not in a vehicle."

Police gave the following account of what happened in the release:

An officer was dispatched to a reported dead deer in the roadway after a Highway Patrol call. A semi-truck driver had also reported hitting something in the roadway.

The officer drove to the scene, and what he saw appeared to be consistent with with a deer being hit by a vehicle. He didn't think there was a traffic hazard because there wasn't much material in the middle of the road. Another officer who drove through the area also thought it appeared that a deer had been struck.

At 12:45 p.m., a police officer noticed a call forwarded from the Highway Patrol in which a person reported seeing bloody clothes along the road. When the officer responded, the remains were confirmed to be human.

Bernhard said officers did not immediately investigate the roadway because of safety concerns.

"It's a safety issue for the officer and other pedestrians," Bernhard said. "If you have a vehicle verses deer accident and people are coming by at 75 or 80 miles an hour at night, we do not require the officers to get on the roadway so they do not get hit."

According to the release, when the Police Department typically responds to a deer-vehicle accident, if an officer determines there is no traffic hazard, no further action is taken and officers aren't required to inspect material near a high-traffic road unless there are unusual circumstances.

Bernhard said the command staff will look at the internal review and decide if it needs to change procedures for future vehicle verses deer cases.

Supervising editor is Allie Hinga.


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