Man Charged in Hit-and-Run That Killed Officer - NBC Chicago

Man Charged in Hit-and-Run That Killed Officer

Jason R. Cozmanoff, 42, is being held at the Lake County (Indiana) Jail on $90,000 bond



    Man Charged in Hit-and-Run That Killed Officer
    Jason R. Cozmanoff

    Criminal charges were filed Friday against a Lakes of the Four Seasons man who surrendered to police the day after a hit-and-run crash that killed Lake County correctional officer Britney Meux and injured three others.

    Jason R. Cozmanoff, 42, faces one count of failure to stop after accident resulting in death, a Class C felony, and three counts of failure to stop after accident resulting in serious bodily injury, a Class D felony, after he allegedly crashed his blue 1992 GMC Yukon into four correctional officers jogging on 93rd Avenue near the Lake County Government Complex Tuesday night. Cozmanoff is being held at the Lake County Jail on $90,000 bond.

    At a news conference Friday afternoon, Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said that Cozmanoff could face additional charges as the investigation progresses.

    Buncich said he was contacted Wednesday afternoon by Cozmanoff’s attorney, James Thiros, who indicated his client wished to surrender to police. Cozmanoff was taken into custody around 9:30 p.m., but he has not made any statements to police on the advice of his attorney.

    Cozmanoff’s estranged wife, with whom he has three sons, contacted Griffith police about a call she received from Cozmanoff, where he made explicit statements admitting that he struck the four officers.

    His SUV, which was registered to his father, has been processed by crime lab technicians. The SUV was missing its passenger side view mirror and a lower fog lamp, and the passenger side window was shattered, with shards of glass scattered throughout the front of the SUV. Traces of blood and tissue were on the exterior of the passenger side.

    Police obtained additional evidence at the Lakes of the Four Seasons home Cozmanoff shares with his father, including blue jeans, a baseball cap, sunglasses, a telephone and a credit card with glass residue and fluid related to a vehicle crash.

    "We are building a case, pulling phone records on where he was immediately before," Buncich said.

    Investigators say there is no apparent connection between the suspect and the four officers.

    Since 1998, Cozmanoff has been a member of Moose Lodge #620 in Crown Point. He once served a three-week stint as the lodge's highest-ranking officer.

    "To me he was a nice person. He never did anything wrong to me or anybody else down here," said one of the lodge's top executives, who requested anonymity.

    Lodge records show Cozmanoff wasn't at the lodge on Tuesday night.

    "We're basically in shock about what's happened. We feel for his family as well as the family of the victims," said the executive.

    Britney Meux and three colleagues were jogging on 93rd Avenue around 7 p.m. Tuesday near the jail complex in Crown Point when a dark-colored SUV drove into the group from behind.

    One of the officers said that right before the crash, they heard the engine of the SUV rev up.

    Meux, a former United States Marine and three-year veteran of the force who was a new mother, died at the scene. The others -- David Murchek, 26; Delano Scaife, 22; and Latasha Johnson, 34 -- were seriously injured.

    Scaife, who joined the force four months ago, remains in critical condition at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Murchek, a five-year veteran of the department, and Johnson, also a five-year veteran, were released from the hospital.

    Meux is survived by a 5-month-old. Lake County Police said the Savannah Beiley Hardiman Fund has been set up to assist the daughter and donations can be made at any Centier Bank.

    Cozmanoff has prior tangles with the law, records show. He was arrested and charged with driving without a valid license, having an open alcohol container in the vehicle, driving left of center and unsafe land change in September 2009. His blood alcohol level at the time was found to be more than the state .08 percent for drunken driving, but less that .15 percent, Indiana court records state.

    He pleaded guilty and successfully completed the Lake County Drug and Alcohol Offender Service program. He has received other citations for having open alcohol in his car and was also charged in May 2008 with driving without a valid license.



    (L to R) Britney Meux, Delano Scaife, David Murchek and Latasha Johnson