Traffic Accident Fatal to Officer Northey

 

Traffic Accident Fatal to Arvada Patrolman

(by Jeannine Heltman)

Tragedy struck the Arvada Police Department this week with the death of Patrolman Walter "Mike" Northey Monday following an early morning accident Saturday.

Northey, 25, was pronounced dead at the intensive care unit at Lutheran Medical Center at 1:18 p.m. Monday where he had been listed in critical condition since Saturday morning with extensive internal and head injuries.  He never regained consciousness after the accident, Lt. William Scott said.

Charges are pending against John Hostetler, 30, of Boulder following investigation this week by the Arvada Police Department, the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office and special accident reconstruction experts.  Hostetler was arrested on charges of vehicular assault pending further investigation Saturday and released on bond, Patrolman Arnold Wheat said.

Hostetler is a teacher with the Adams County School District.

Police Chief William Koleszar called Northey's death "a tragedy" and said the police department is "trying to make the best of a bad situation" by comforting Northey's wife and family.

Northey Struck While Getting Into Patrol Car

Northey was struck by Hostetler Saturday at 1:19 a.m. at West 72th Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard where he and Patrolwoman Susie Westerdahl had stopped two motorcyclists.  According to Wheat, Northey and Westerdahl stopped the motorcyclists for failure to stop at a red light on Wadsworth Boulevard at West 75th Avenue.

The motorcyclists, John W. Swisher, 28, of Westminster and Gerald Dragich, 25, also of Westminster, were being processed for the traffic violation when Northey discovered a concealed weapon on Swisher.  Northey was in the process of arresting Swisher for carrying a concealed weapon and had put Swisher in the back seat of his patrol car when Hostetler, traveling northbound on Wadworth Boulevard, struck Northey as he was getting into the driver's side of the patrol car parked along Wadsworth Boulevard.

Wheat said Northey's vehicle was parked fully off Wadsworth Boulevard with red lights flashing when the accident occurred.

Hostetler's car struck Northey and reportedly hurled him 85 to 100 feet north, Scott said.  He landed under Westerdahl's patrol car, Scott said.

Tow Truck Driver Pinned

Before the accident occurred, Northey had called Chuck's Towing to remove Swisher's motorcycle and the motorcycle had just been attached to the tow truck but not raised when Hostetler's car hit Northey.  The tow truck driver, Chuck Phillips, was pinned between his tow truck and Hostetler's car.  Swisher, seated in the back seat of the patrol car, was also hit.

Two Physicians' Ambulances transported Northey and Swisher to the emergency room at Lutheran Medical Center.  Phillips later went to Lutheran where he was treated and released for severe leg bruises.

Swisher was treated for three compression fractures of the spine and released on Tuesday morning.  Wheat said he believed Swisher had been ticketed for carrying a concealed weapon and Dragich for running a red light but was not certain.

Accident Investigation Still Under Way

Although an accident investigation was still under way at presstime, Wheat said police believed Hostetler was traveling the authorized spped limit of 40 miles-per-hour when the accident occurred.  Results of the blood-alcohol tests were not available Tuesday, Wheat said, although he said Hostetler was not believed to have been "flat out drunk."

A drug screening was also being performed, he said.  Police have also speculated that Hostetler may have fallen asleep at the wheel or that he "was simply driving and not paying attention," Wheat said.

Wheat said eventual charges could range from a misdemeanor traffic violation to manslaughter, a felony.  The case will be prosecuted by the district attorney's office.  A preliminary hearing will be conducted in the county court, Wheat said, but may be transferred to Jefferson County District Court if a felony charge is made.

Memorial Services for Officer Northey

A memorial service, attended by Arvada police officers and city officials, family and friends, was at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Arvada United Methodist Church, 6750 Carr St.  The body was to be transported immediately to Northey's hometown of Lebanon, Pa., where funeral services were to take place "I believe on Thursday (today)," Chief Koleszar said.

Koleszar said a couple of Arvada officers would accompany Northey's wife Terri, his parents, and other family members to Pennsylvania to attend the funeral.  Although Koleszar said poice officers "will be down and quiet for a few weeks" following Northey's death, he said the entire department "will try to maintain our level and service and spirit.  Mike was a good cop and he would understand our trying to do that," Koleszar said.

Northey was hired by the Arvada Police Department in February, 1978 coming from the Baltimore City Police Department in Maryland.  He is the first Arvada police officer to die on duty since 1961 when an officer drowned during a training exercise at Lake Arbor Lake, Wheat said.

Koleszar said a memorial fund has been established for Northey and contributions may be made to the Walter Michael Northey Memorial Fund, in care of Police Chief William Koleszar, Arvada Police Department, 8101 Ralston Road, Arvada Colo., 80001.