Bicyclist killed in hit-and-run by Maryland Episcopal bishop

by Karen L. Willoughby, |
Bishop Heather Cook at her consecration in September 2014. | EPISCOPALDIGITALNETWORK.COM/Richard Schori

BALTIMORE, Md. (Christian Examiner) -- Twenty minutes after bicycle-maker Tom Palermo was hit by a passing vehicle on Saturday, Dec. 27, Maryland's first female Episcopal bishop, Heather Cook, returned to the scene in a vehicle with a half-crushed windshield.

Palermo died later that afternoon, after he was taken to a hospital with serious head and other injuries.

Witness Jason La Canfora described to the Baltimore Sun newspaper "a massive impact" that took place about 2:40 p.m. Saturday, evidenced by deep, fractured indentations on the front and windshield of Cook's Subaru SUV.

"He was alive after it happened," Lora Peters told a local online newspaper, the Baltimore Brew. "She might have been able to help or call for help if she'd stayed on the scene."

In announcing Cook's name as the vehicle's driver, Taylor Sutton of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland wrote to the diocese's clergy Sunday that Bishop Cook, elected in September 2014 to the diocese's number two spot, "did leave the scene initially, but returned after about 20 minutes to take responsibility for her actions."

Cook has made no statement about the incident; she has been placed on administrative leave from her leadership role because criminal charges could be filed, Sutton wrote in his letter to the clergy.

While no statement was made regarding her sobriety Saturday afternoon, Cook does have a police record. She was cited in September 2010 after she blew a breathalyzer content of .27, or more than three times the legal limit of alcohol. In her car, police said they found a bottle of whiskey, a bottle of wine, a marijuana pipe, and one shredded tire, according to an article in My Eastern Shore MD.

"However, records show that by January 2012 the drug charges were dropped, and Cook received "probation without judgment" for the DUI charge, reported an article in the Daily Mail online new publication

Cook, daughter of a pastor and his teacher wife, was ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in April 1988. She was elected the first woman bishop in Maryland on May 2, 2014, on the fourth ballot, from a slate of four nominees.