photo: WWJ/Charlie Langton

Off-Duty Officer Killed In Double Fatal Crash, Daughter Survives

July 26, 2018 - 11:20 am

DETROIT (WWJ) - A deadly crash overnight in Detroit claimed the lives of two people, including an off-duty police officer, and left a child hospitalized.

The single vehicle crash happened around 3:30 a.m. Thursday on northbound Woodward Avenue near State Fair. 

The driver, a 27-year-old James Hearn, apparently lost control of his vehicle and slammed into a light pole. He was killed along with a female passenger, identified only as his girlfriend. Hearn's 11-year-old daughter received minor injuries in the crash and was taken to the hospital. She has since been released. 

Police Captain Darrell Patterson said investigators only have one witness account of the crash.

"He said the car didn't seem like it was speeding, it seemed like it was going about 40 miles per hour, and the accident occurred," Patterson said. "We don't know exactly what happened."

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said Hearn had a very long day before the tragic crash happened. 

"He was out working with our Team Up program, which is a mentoring program with our youth. He also had his daughter accompany him," said Craig. "And then right after that, went fishing. And then at some point they were headed home. That's where we are in the investigation. There's no indication of anything nefarious."

Craig said it's too early to say what caused Hearn to lose control, but he cautioned against jumping to conclusions. 

"Maybe medical, maybe exhaustion. As I said, he had a long day. I just don't want to speculate. And people, street corner investigators who make these wild accusations there was an argument, well clearly weren't even in the car with them at the time. I'm just really taken back when these stories that come up that are not factual," Craig said. "Let's not deal with maybes, but let's deal with what's factual. What's factual is an accident, it's tragic."

Hearn was quite accomplished during his short career with the department, Craig said, and one of his greatest achievements was earning a lifesaving award.

"He saved a life from a burning building. I don't know too many police officers, myself included, that we'd like to go into burning structures. Now, we might go and deal with gunfire, but fires -- absolutely not. But James is exceptional and he did that," Craig said. "This was an officer who in a short time distinguished himself in a major way."

Craig continued to praise Hearn, saying he left a lasting impression on the department as well as the community. 

"He touched everyone. If you knew James, you knew he had that magnetic smile," Craig said. "This is a time to recognize and memorialize this fine officer. And while his time was short, he did in fact make a mark. He made a mark not only with the people he worked with, but also with the citizens that he protected and served." 

Mark Holloway, the officer's pastor, said Hearn's family is heartbroken. 

"He's like a son to me. I'm very close to the entire family. It's very devastating right now. He's a great young man, father, loved his job, a police officer, very dedicated," Holloway told WWJ's Charlie Langton.

An investigation remains ongoing.