After two weeks of searching for a suspect in a possible hit-and-run case, Westerville police are asking the public to help them track down the owner of a blue Ford Expedition that allegedly ran a motorcyclist off the road Aug. 22.
The SUV forced rider David Veltum off Dempsey Road as he passed, and Veltum’s motorcycle went up an embankment and into a tree off the side of the road. Veltum was in critical condition at the time of the accident.
His condition has improved, but he still is being treated at Grant Medical Center for what police called “a lot of injuries.”
Veltum’s motorcycle likely was totaled, and the tree was so damaged that it had to be removed, according to police.
Police say they don’t have information on how fast either vehicle was traveling.
At a press conference Thursday, Sept. 4, Assistant Chief of Police Jon Scowden said the department has continued to follow up on leads from the public but is asking that everyone in the community keep an eye out for the vehicle.
“We’re hoping (the Expedition) is still out there driving around,” Scowden said.
Police say the vehicle likely is either a 1997 or 1998 XLT four-wheel-drive model. From surveillance video of the incident, police believe the vehicle had an aftermarket chrome handle on the passenger door, with matching chrome around its taillights.
Scowden cautioned that those unique characteristics may even have changed.
“With these aftermarket handles and taillight guards, they can be easily taken off or replaced,” he said. “If there are neighbors who have seen a car have those things and suddenly change, or a car usually parked in one place that is now parking in another, those are things we’d like to know.”
Scowden said Veltum reported that the driver “brake-checked” him multiple times before the incident, contributing to Veltum passing in a no-pass zone in a 35-mph stretch of Dempsey.
Police say they are unsure whether the SUV and Veltum’s Suzuki motorcycle had made contact. Veltum said they did, but officers reportedly found no physical indication of contact on the scene.
In an attempt to help bring more attention to the search, Veltum’s family has increased the reward amount for anyone who can provide information that leads to the arrest and/or conviction of the suspect.
Initially, the family offered $1,000 for information. The offer is now $3,000.
Scowden said it’s too early to tell what kind of criminal case this might be and said the first step is to speak to the driver of the SUV.
“We just want to talk to them,” he said. “We want to get their side of the story.”