ATV Driver Charged With Hit-and-Run with Police K9
Blaze the Collinsville police dog.
Belleview News Democrat via YellowBrix
February 04, 2011
COLLINSVILLE — A Collinsville man was charged with obstruction of justice Thursday after accusations that he ran over a police dog during a winter storm Tuesday.
James Michael Hughes, 29, of North Center Street was charged with two felony counts of obstruction of justice. Hughes is accused of running over Blaze, a 3-year-old police dog, while operating an ATV in the street on Tuesday night.
Officer Mike Bauer said he was stopped at the side of the road giving Blaze a break when Hughes came down the street. Bauer said he waved his flashlight to warn the ATV driver, but the ATV swerved toward him. Bauer leapt out of the way, but Blaze was struck and flew about 20 feet. The ATV driver then fled the scene.
Detective Sgt. Eric Zaber said the operation of the ATV on a public street is a traffic misdemeanor, as is leaving the scene of the accident, so they will be lumped in with the felony charges.
However, Hughes is not being charged with injuring a police dog, which is a Class 4 felony in Illinois, punishable with one to four years in jail. Blaze suffered a bruised lung and trauma to his liver.
Zaber said that at the time, Bauer was driving an unmarked white SUV due to the weather instead of a marked police car, and Blaze was not wearing his police body armor he would ordinarily wear when going into a building on a search.
“They thought it would be challenging to prove that (Hughes) knew he hit a police dog,” Zaber said, referring to the Madison County State’s Attorney’s office. “It’s our understanding that he says he didn’t know it was a police dog.”
However, Zaber said Hughes provided false information to police when interviewed and attempted to conceal the ATV, which was the basis of the obstruction charges. Bail was set at $20,000.
Meanwhile, Blaze has been released from the animal hospital and is recuperating at Bauer’s home, Zaber said. He said the police department appreciates the community’s concern and support for the injured dog.