Police say a man with a history of driving under the influence told officers when he was arrested Tuesday that he "was scared out of his mind" after allegedly hitting and killing a 13-year-old boy on a bicycle.
Mason Andrews Ohms, 50, of Saratoga Springs, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of automobile homicide and failing to remain at the scene of an accident involving death.
The boy was identified Wednesday as Eli Mitchell, 13, of West Jordan. He was a student at West Jordan Middle School.
On Tuesday, Eli was on a bicycle when he was hit in a crosswalk, at 1510 W. 9000 South about 6 p.m., by a Chevrolet pickup truck with a mounted ladder rack and equipment in the back, police said. Ohms, the driver of the pickup, then drove off, according to police.
Witnesses said the truck was making a right turn when the driver hit Eli and then dragged the bicycle underneath his vehicle, according to a police booking affidavit.
"The vehicle made a U-turn and drove back (toward) the scene where bystanders were administering CPR to the unconscious victim," the affidavit states. "The suspect continued to flee the scene south on 1510 West while still dragging the bicycle."
Witnesses who followed the truck provided police with cellphone video and photos of the vehicle, including its license plate. At one point, Ohms stopped his truck in a parking lot, got out and removed the bike from under his truck before driving off again, according to the affidavit.
Eli was not conscious or breathing when bystanders began helping him. The boy's bicycle helmet was still attached to his chin, the affidavit states. The first officers who arrived on scene attempted CPR before the boy was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead from his injuries a short time later.
Officers went to the home of the registered owner of the truck in Saratoga Springs, where Ohms lives. At the house, police spoke to Ohms' wife. Officers initially tried to call Ohms but he did not answer his phone, the affidavit states. His wife also attempted to use the "find my phone" feature to determine where her husband was, but later learned that he had turned off the feature on his phone, according to police.
Eventually, Ohms' wife was able to get him to answer his phone and told him that police were at the house to speak to him. Moments later, Ohms was spotted walking toward his house.
When asked where his truck was, Ohms said he had parked it down the street. He told police "he parked it over there because he was panicked and knew the police were (at) his house. Mason made comments to (a detective) that he was scared out of his mind" before turning to his wife and hugging her while stating, "Something bad happened," the affidavit states.
After police explained why they were there, Ohms "spontaneously stated, 'I felt a bump and did not know what it was,'" according to the affidavit. Ohms then invoked his right not to speak.
The officers also noted in the affidavit that they could "smell the distinct and overwhelming odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from Mason's mouth" and that the "odor of an alcoholic beverage was so strong on his breath" that it could be smelled simply when Ohms was breathing.
West Jordan police said Wednesday the investigation into whether Ohms was impaired at the time he allegedly hit the boy was still ongoing.
Ohms has had a number of DUI or alcohol-related convictions dating back to 1996, according to court records. He was convicted of DUI in 1996, twice in 1997 and 2003. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years of probation following his 2003 conviction, according to court records. He was convicted of violating alcohol restrictions while driving in 2010, and simple assault and impersonating a police officer in 2006.
West Jordan Middle School’s administration released a statement Wednesday expressing condolences, offering support to students, parents and caregivers.
"Eli is a beloved member of our school and will be dearly missed," the statement read. "Our hearts are with Eli's family, friends, and loved ones at this difficult time.
"Counselors have been available at West Jordan Middle to meet with students who are struggling with this loss and will continue to be available at the school. Parents and caregivers are a child's most important resource and support as they cope with difficult emotions connected with grief and loss. Connection, understanding, and empathy are what a child needs most. We are partnered with you in supporting your child through this difficult time."
Eli's grandfather, Glendon Mitchell, also issued a statement on behalf of the family Wednesday, thanking those who assisted him during the accident.
"Eli was a kind, loving, jovial and friendly young man who had many friends," Mitchell said. "At the time of his death, he was doing two of his favorite things: riding his bicycle and having treats. Eli also loved outdoor activities, including snowboarding, riding ATVs, camping, video games, airsoft wars and activities with his friends.
"He was an avid reader and adults around him often had to look up words he used. Spending time with his family was so important to him. He was very close to his 16-year-old sister. While grieving, the family takes comfort in knowing that we all see Eli again. Eli was a person of great faith for his age. Hopefully others will benefit from this tragedy as Eli was an organ donor.
"Parents Jeremy and Lisa Mitchell, and the entire family, wish to express gratitude to the bystanders who tried to revive Eli along with the outstanding service beyond the call of duty from the West Jordan Police Department and paramedics. We will be forever grateful to the many unknown individuals who tried to assist him and recognize this likely had an impact on them. We also express appreciation for the great outpouring of support and sympathy from the community."
Contributing: Arianne Brown