Citing words from a sermon she delivered just last month on accountability, cyclists in Baltimore City cried louder for Heather Cook, the first female bishop of The Episcopal Church of Maryland, to be charged with murder after she allegedly killed one of their own, a married father of two, in a hit-and-run accident Saturday.
Cook, 58, who court records reveal has a history of substance abuse, has not yet been charged in the death of 41-year-old Thomas Palermo, who friends and relatives are now grieving.
A spokesperson from the Office of the State's Attorney for Baltimore City told The Christian Post Monday evening that they could not comment on an ongoing investigation, and staff at the Diocese have not yet delivered a statement from Cook, who has been placed on leave from the Diocese.
A Facebook community called "Charge Bishop Heather Cook With Homicide" with more than 1,000 supporters as of Tuesday morning, however, is now calling on Cook to take her own advice from a message she delivered just last month, warning her congregants about on speeding and accountability.
"If we routinely drive 55 in a 30 mph zone, we won't be able to stop on a dime if driving conditions get dangerous. Or if an animal or, God forbid, a human being should step out in front of us. Things happen suddenly, and we're either prepared in the moment or we're not. And we face the consequences," said Cook in a clip from the message posted on YouTube.
"We can't go back. We can't do it over. In real life, there are no 'instant replays.' I think this is something of a hard message to give to you today. My perception is that we live in the midst of a culture that doesn't like to hold us accountable for consequences. That somehow everybody gets a free pass all the time ... it's up to us to be responsible," she continued.
Supporters of the community seeking justice, including at least one member of the clergy, are now calling out what they see as Cook's hypocrisy.
"I'm an Episcopal priest and avid cyclist. My deepest condolences on this tragic death. There is no excuse for any of the bishop's actions. It's very upsetting that a bishop of our church would have left the scene, let alone cause the accident. I pray she is held accountable by the law and by the church. I wish she had taken her own sermon to heart. May he rest in peace," said Chris Rankin-Williams in a post with multiple likes.
In a statement to CBS, local police declined interviews saying the release of any details of the investigation could jeopardize any potential prosecution.
"We have received a number of requests for information regarding the fatal accident involving the cyclist in the 5700 block of Roland Ave., this past Saturday. These investigations are complex and intricate, requiring detailed reconstruction and forensic examination. This is still a very active investigation that is being handled by our C.R.A.S.H. Team. In order not to jeopardize any potential prosecution, specific evidentiary details will not be released at this time. The identity of the driver and other specific information about the incident will not be confirmed at this time. Everyone's thoughts and prayers remain with the Palermo family. While there is significant public interest in this incident, the integrity of the investigation must be preserved," it said.