LINCOLN – A keen-eyed member of the Police Department is getting kudos for zeroing in on the alleged hit-and-run motorist who ran down a 23-year-old woman on Front Street last week.
After issuing a public plea for help in the case, Officer Kyle Wingate is credited with singlehandedly nabbing David Vierra of North Providence for the crime on Christmas Day.
Vierra, 50, of North Providence, is now facing one count of leaving the scene of an accident involving personal injury. Capt. Philip Gould said the victim, Melissa Richmond, is still in the hospital recovering from broken bones.
“There’s no question Officer Wingate deserves a good deal of credit for this arrest,” said Gould. “He’s a very observant officer.”
Wingate was on patrol at about 10 Christmas morning when a car matching the description of the hit-and-run vehicle passed him near Anna Sayles and Old River roads. Gould said Wingate noticed that the vehicle, a silver 1993 Buick Century, had front-end damage consistent with that given by witnesses who allegedly saw Richmond run down as she was attempting to walk across Front Street in a marked crosswalk last Saturday night.
After passing Wingate’s cruiser, the Buick ducked into the business park opposite Lincoln High School. Wingate pulled his cruiser into the parking lot of the high school, where one of the roads leading from the business park exits.
When Vierra pulled out of the exit road, he saw the cruiser waiting for him, according to Gould. From that point on, Wingate found Vierra’s behavior peculiar.
Vierra didn’t drive off, as if he has someplace else to go, Gould said. Instead, he drove toward Wingate’s cruiser, stopped and immediately starting talking to the officer about the hit-and-run.
Vierra didn’t admit to any criminal behavior, but when Wingate asked a few questions about the pedestrian accident his answers led the officer to believe that he may have been responsible.
“There were some good interview questions on the part of the officer that led Mr. Vierra to give some answers that didn’t add up,” said Gould. “The suspect was taken to police headquarters, where he became cooperative in the investigation.”
Gould was not surprised by Wingate’s attention to detail on patrol. He said Wingate is the department’s “DRE,” or Drug Recognition Expert. Such officers have undergone specialized training to determine whether impaired motorists are under the influence of alcohol or drugs based on mere observation, without the aid of chemical tests.
Wingate is also a part-time instructor at the Rhode Island Municipal Police Training Academy.
Vierra was released on personal recognizance following his arraignment on the criminal charge, which is a felony. He is scheduled to make an initial appearance on the charge in Superior Court on March 18.
Follow Russ Olivo on Twitter @russolivo