Maryland’s first female Episcopal bishop has been identified as the driver involved in a fatal bicycle crash on Saturday in Baltimore’s North Roland Park. Bishop Suffragan Heather Elizabeth Cook was ordained to the diocese's second-ranking post in September.
Police said a 41-year-old bicyclist was hit by a car on Saturday afternoon. The driver of the vehicle was initially identified as a 58-year-old woman. She left the scene but returned when investigators arrived, the Baltimore Sun reports.
On Sunday evening, the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland identified Cook as the driver. She has been placed on administrative leave "because the nature of the accident could result in criminal charges," Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton wrote in an email sent to clergy members on Sunday. He added that the accident was not a “hit-and-run” as some news agencies reported. “Bishop Cook did leave the scene initially, but returned after about 20 minutes to take responsibility for her actions," Sutton wrote.
Cook made headlines in September when she became the first female bishop ordained in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. Originally from Syracuse, New York, Cook moved to Baltimore and later became an ordained priest in 1988.
Cook’s latest run-in with the law is not her first. According to a Caroline County Sheriff's Office news release in 2010, Cook was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana and drug paraphernalia possession, reckless driving, negligent driving and other traffic offenses. She was arrested and later released on her own recognizance. The charges were dropped in 2012. Drugs and alcohol have not been identified as factors in the fatal crash on Saturday.
In Cook’s biography on the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland’s website, she says she is committed to the church’s future. “I’m unconvinced by the naysayers who say the day of the Church is over,” Cook said. “I believe a new Church is just beginning, and feel called to help lead in the discovery.”