Morrow mayoral candidate Joseph “J.B.” Burke’s medical condition is improving, but he remains in Grady Memorial Hospital’s intensive care unit, as doctors work to treat injuries he received Sunday in a hit-and-run automobile accident, according to a family member.
Burke’s niece, Angel Payne, said her uncle has a punctured lung, along with fractured ribs, and a fractured hand, and is on pain medication. She also said he is “not breathing deep” because of his injuries, and is, therefore, having to use an oxygen mask to assist him with his breathing.
Payne added that, despite initial reports from Morrow police to the contrary, Burke has not yet undergone surgery on his left hand. She said doctors have told the family that the surgery on Burke’s hand is the only surgery he will require.
“The doctors want to get him transferred to a regular [non-ICU] room before they do the surgery, and they want to get his oxygen and blood pressure levels under control before they move him to a regular room,” Payne said. “It just depends on how it [his recovery from his lung and rib injuries] goes ... We’re just taking [it] day by day at this point.”
Payne said it is not yet clear when her uncle will be able to come home, but she said family members are hopeful it will happen by the end of the week. She said relatives, who came down to Atlanta from Greensboro, N.C., on Monday, were “relieved” when they were able to see Burke, and talk to him.
“He’s feeling all of it [pain] today, but otherwise, he’s getting better,” Payne said. She said her uncle is expected to fully recover from his injuries.
While Burke is recovering, Morrow police are continuing the search for the driver of the 2008 white, Cadillac Escalade that hit Burke’s 2006 blue, Toyota Scion XA. Morrow Police Sgt. Harry Hess said he is still working leads, but had no new information available on Tuesday. He said he expects to interview more people about the accident today.
Morrow Police Chief Jeff Baker said the Escalade was stolen in Fulton County. A Fulton County police spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Police only have a vague description of the suspect. He is described as a six-foot-tall black male, with an athletic, heavy-set build, who was wearing a white shirt, dark pants and white shoes at the time of the accident. He was last seen walking away from the accident, on Morrow Road, toward Phillips Drive, according to police.
New details about the accident did come to light Tuesday, from a man listed in Hess’ accident report as a witness. Morrow resident, Dubois Agustin, Jr., who lives near where the incident occurred, provided the Clayton News Daily with new details about what happened immediately after the collision.
Agustin said he was in his home, and heard the sound of “Cracking windshields and crushing metal at the same time,” when the Escalade hit Burke’s vehicle. He said he walked out of his home, to see how bad the accident was, and caught a glimpse of the suspect. He said he was not able to see the suspect’s face, though.
“He got out of the white truck, the Escalade, and walked over to the older man’s [Burke’s] car,” Agustin said. “He opened the door of the older man’s car, looked at him, and then closed the door, and started to walk off. I yelled out to him, and was like ‘Woah, aren’t you going to call an ambulance?’ The guy just looked back at me, and continued to walk away.”
Agustin said after he got across Morrow Road, to Burke’s car, he noticed the inside of the vehicle, where Burke was sitting, was filling up with “quite a bit of smoke.” The witness said he opened the door to the vehicle, to let the smoke out. He then said he found the mayoral candidate unconscious, and his body was turned in the driver’s seat, to face the front, passenger-side door.
“He was unconscious, so I was trying to talk to him, to get him to wake up, and he was unconscious for about a minute-and-a-half,” Agustin said. He later added that, once Burke regained consciousness, the candidate “told me, ‘Call the mayor [Morrow Mayor Jim Millirons]’, but his eyes, they still couldn’t focus on me. He was in pretty bad shape.”
Agustin said he then called 9-1-1. Hess’ accident report states that Burke was unconcious when police officers arrived on the seen.
Payne said her uncle has been able to show signs that he still has his jovial personality, however. “He’s still popping out some of his humor, although he can’t laugh right now because it hurts too much,” Payne said. “So, he makes us laugh, even though he can’t laugh with us.”
She said family members will be staying with Burke for “awhile” after he leaves the hospital.
Jeff DeTar, who is Burke’s only opponent in Morrow’s mayoral election, said he has been trying to get a hold of Burke and his family, to see how he is doing, and has offered to buy Burke’s groceries while he remains in the hospital.
He said he was “really relieved” to hear that Burke’s family had come down from North Carolina to take care of him.
DeTar and Burke are friends, who helped form the Morrow Citizens for Better Government group this year, in response to the revelation that the city spent far more money on the development of its Olde Towne Morrow project, than it was earning from the development.
“It’s tragic that it is happening at a time like this [the mayoral election is three weeks away] and that it involves a stolen vehicle,” DeTar said. “We’re not used to stolen vehicles here in Morrow.”
Anyone with information about the accident, can call Hess at (770) 961-4006.