LAWRENCE, Kan. - The Lawrence Police Department announced it has a suspect in the April 28 hit and run death of John Lowe. The suspect was not identified.
Police spokesman Sgt. George Wheeler said evidence gathered at the scene led to the vehicle involved in the accident but no charges have yet been filed. Lowe was struck by the vehicle in an alley and dragged 200 feet. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
"We have recovered the car we believe was involved with the hit and run and we have interviewed the guy we believe to be the driver," Wheeler said.
Since the suspect didn't admit he was at the scene, forensic labs will have to match up the evidence from the scene with the suspect vehicle. Police sent the evidence to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and expect test results within two to four weeks. The case will then be turned over to the District Attorney's office to determine if charges will be filed.
Wheeler said it appears the dragging death may have been an accident, but the nothing will be ruled out until the investigation is complete.
"We haven't gotten the forensics back from the lab or the coroner's report back on the autopsy," Wheeler said. "We are still trying to figure out the motivation ... ."
He said the suspect denied knowing John Lowe, but was not forthcoming with any information regarding the accident.
"He said he might know something about it, but not a lot," Wheeler said.
The case was broken through "good old fashioned police work," he said Evidence at the accident scene revealed the color and make of the car and officers went through a process of elimination, crawling under a lot of vehicles, Wheeler said.
Although Dave Cade of the Pelathe Community Resource Center is glad there has been progress in the case, he is concerned because neither the police nor district attorney's office has made mention of charges against the driver.
"I don't want to see this swept under the rug just because John Lowe was a transient. I want them to treat this the same way the would have if the victim had been a student from the University of Kansas." Cade said.
He was concerned that John Lowe was dragged 200 feet, under the vehicle, "There is no way you can drag a body for that far and not know it. I wonder if this is a KU student and they are pressuring the police. I want to see charges pressed, even if it has to be something like littering. We also don't know if this was a hate crime or not. This shouldn't have happened."
Cade believes preferential treatment is given to students at the University of Kansas compared to other citizens throughout the Lawrence community.
"They say that it isn't discrimination, but I believe that it is the basis of it when you treat people differently due to class." Cade said. He explained that even if a shelter had been open for the homeless man on the night he was killed, he probably wouldn't have been admitted. The Salvation Army has started administering Breathalyzer tests before the homeless are admitted for the night. Cade believes not admitting someone who is an alcoholic is like turning a sick person out on the street.
"They say it is for security purposes, but if they knew John Lowe, they would know he wouldn't have bothered anyone. People who are alcoholics are sick and you just can't turn someone who is sick out to fend for themselves."
Lowe's body was returned to a sister and memorial services were held in a park in Lawrence.
In the meantime, the Lawrence Native American community is watching the case carefully. Cade said he had not received any information regarding protests about the way the case was being handled, but he believes that Lowe's death will not be forgotten and there will be a public outcry if no charges are pressed.