08/29/2003

Phoenix Officer Critically Injured in Hit & Run

Officer Down: Officer Keith Young - [Phoenix, Arizona]

Hit-run puts officer's life, dream job at risk



Phoenix police Officer Keith Young was struck by a vehicle allegedly driven by Lucinda Marie Tomchee.

Judi Villa
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 29, 2003 12:00 AM


Keith Young always dreamed of being a cop. That's what brought him to the side of the road Thursday morning.

Young had spent two decades working for his dad. He got married and fathered two children. Then, last year, with his family's full support, he joined the Phoenix Police Department.

But his dream of wearing a badge may have ended when a driver slammed into him on the side of the roadway just east of Interstate 10.

Young, 39, remains in critical condition at Maricopa Medical Center with head injuries. Officials aren't yet sure if Young will suffer any permanent brain damage but as of Thursday evening, there was no brain activity.

"He's going to survive," Phoenix police Cmdr. Andy Anderson said. "The biggest question is whether or not there's damage to his brain.

"We're hoping and praying everything comes back for him."



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Lucinda Marie Tomchee, 41, was so drunk that five hours after the incident her blood-alcohol content was nearly twice the legal limit, according to prosecutors.

Tomchee, an unemployed schoolteacher with a master's degree from Arizona State University, continued driving after striking Young, prosecutors said during her initial appearance Thursday.

Young and Officer Josh Adams had arrested a burglary suspect when they stopped on the south side of Chandler Boulevard to question two more people. Adams sat inside his patrol car to run the names through a computer.

Young was standing just outside the open driver's door when police say Tomchee plowed into the rear of the car and then into him. The officer fell to the pavement as the impact crushed the cruiser's door. Some of the bones in Young's face were fractured.

The driver fled.

"999!" Adams yelled into his radio, the police call sign for when an officer needs immediate assistance.

"Apparently it was pretty bad," Phoenix police Sgt. Lauri Williams said. "They thought that he was dead."

Adams then jumped into Young's patrol car and followed the fleeing driver. When she pulled into a nearby convenience store in Chandler, Adams pulled in behind her and arrested her.

Young was on his way to a hospital with a police escort nine minutes after the crash.

"There wasn't a lot of damage to the car," Phoenix fire Capt. Tony Caretto said. "He took the brunt of it."

Paramedics put tubes down Young's throat to help him breathe. Later, Young was breathing again on his own.

"You really got to admire a guy like that," Caretto said.

Tomchee, who lives in Chandler with her two children, had a DUI conviction a decade ago when she lived in New Mexico.

She fell asleep after Chandler police took her into custody Thursday, officials said. But they were able to draw blood from her three times over several hours to test her blood-alcohol content.

The first test, taken 3 1/2 hours after the 1:16 a.m. incident, registered a 0.192 percent, more than twice the 0.08 percent legal limit. Her bail was set at $108,000.

Young is the second Phoenix officer to be critically injured on the job this year. Officer Rob Sitek was shot four times in April and is recovering.

A steady stream of officers turned out Thursday at Maricopa Medical Center to support Young and his family.

"He's a trouper, considering what the heck happened to him," said Officer Jason Schechterle, who battled back to work after a horrific on-duty crash when a driver slammed into his police cruiser, leaving him badly burned.

Jake Jacobsen, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, said everybody has "a real positive outlook."

"It's going to be a long road," Jacobsen said. "We've all got our fingers crossed."
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