Morrow mayoral candidate in ICU after hit-and-run

A candidate in Morrow’s mayoral election race is being treated in Grady Hospital’s intensive care unit following surgery to repair injuries he received during a hit-and-run automobile accident over the weekend, according to Morrow Police officials.

Joseph “J.B.” Burke, 61, was driving his 2006 blue, Toyota Scion XA eastbound on Morrow Road Sunday, at 7:50 p.m., when he was hit by a 2008 white, Cadillac Escalade that was traveling northbound on Clearbrook Drive, according to Morrow Police Sgt. Harry Hess.

Burke, a general manager of several Clayton County hotels, is running against Jeff DeTar in this year’s municipal election to be Morrow’s next mayor.

Morrow City Manager Jeff Eady said Burke is “pretty beat up,” having sustained a concussion, a few broken ribs, a neck injury, and a broken hand. Hess, however, said he could not confirm the full extent of the candidate’s injuries, other than he sustained a concussion, and fractures in his left hand. He said Burke complained of back and neck pains at the scene of the accident.

Hess also said Burke underwent surgery on his hand Monday morning, and was listed in stable condition afterward. “Right now, it’s under investigation,” Hess said. “The at-fault vehicle [the Escalade] ran the stop sign coming off Clearbrook Drive, right off Morrow Road. The driver of that vehicle then exited the vehicle, and fled the scene on foot.”

Police have not identified the driver of the Escalade, and do not yet have him in custody, according to Hess. Morrow Police Chief Jeff Baker said the Escalade was stolen in Fulton County, although Hess said he could not confirm that information because the case is still under investigation.

Hess did confirm, however, that he is working with another, unnamed law enforcement department on the case, and that the other agency is conducting a separate investigation that is related to the accident.

“We’re working a couple of promising leads,” said Hess, who said he is working to get security video from a convenience store near the scene of the accident.

Hess added that he has a vague description of the driver of the Escalade from people who witnessed the accident. He said witnesses described the driver as a 6-foot-tall, black male, with a heavy-set build that was more likely an athletic, football-player-type build, than an overweight build.

Witnesses said the suspect was wearing a white shirt, dark pants, and white shoes. “He fled on foot toward Phillips Drive, on Morrow Road,” Hess said.

Burke’s niece, Angel Payne, said she and several other relatives were on their way to Atlanta, from Greensboro, N.C., Monday evening to check on her uncle. She said that she, Burke’s mother, two of his sisters, two other nieces, and a grandniece were all traveling to see him.

Payne said the family learned of the accident Monday morning, after getting a call from Morrow Business and Tourism Association President Michael Twomey. She said all the family knew, as of 7 p.m., while enroute to the hospital, was that her uncle was in stable condition at Grady, but they had no specific details about his injuries.

“We’re worried about him,” she said. “His family is on the way, though, and we’re going to take care of him, and help him get better.”

Hess said he is still looking for additional information about the accident, and about the person who hit Burke. That includes additional witnesses who saw the accident, or saw the suspect fleeing from the accident site, he said. Anyone with information about the accident, can call Hess at (770) 961-4006.