Updated with Long Beach PD correction on employment of Fawn Hines.
The Long Beach fire captain who allegedly struck a Seal Beach bicyclist last week in a drunken hit-and-run accident must have known he was leaving a body in the road as he sped away, according to two people who say they witnessed the crash.
The impact of the high-speed collision broke the windshield and nearly disabled Long Beach Fire Capt. John Hines’ Chevy Silverado, the witnesses said, adding that no fewer than three drivers chased Hines, honking and screaming at him to pull over, as he drove several blocks from the crash scene to his Huntington Beach home.
Billy Chisholm said he was a passenger in one of those pursuing vehicles.
“I was sick to my stomach the whole time,” Chisholm recalled. “He just hit him and left him to die like he was a skunk in the road. He had to have known he hit him because his truck was all busted up. That was a human being he left there to die. It’s not right.”
Chisholm said he was riding in a truck, two vehicles back from Hines, on Westminster Avenue east of Seal Beach Boulevard, when he saw a man go flying through the air. The driver with him also spoke to a Patch reporter but asked not to be quoted in this story.
“It looked like he flew 50 feet through the air, like a rag doll, and landed face down,” Chisholm said. “I can’t believe he is still alive.”
According to the Seal Beach Police Department, the cyclist, a 45-year-old man whom the department has continued to refuse to identify, suffered major head injuries and was taken to a nearby hospital where he was still being treated as of Friday. The hit-and-run took place about 1 p.m. on April 1. After witnesses followed Hines home, police arrested him on suspicion of felony hit-and-run and felony driving under the influence.
Hines, 38, was booked at the Seal Beach Police Department and released on $50,000 bail that same day. Charges have not yet been filed with the Orange County District Attorney’s office, said Farrah Emami, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.
Hines is well-known in Long Beach fire and law enforcement circles. His uncle is a retired Long Beach fire battalion chief, his father was a fire captain and his wife, Fawn, is a Long Beach police officer.
(Long Beach police Sgt. Rico Fernandez said Tuesday afternoon that Fawn Hines was no longer employed by the department, and referred further questions to the city's civil services agency. Calls requesting more details were referred to human relations, then to city spokesman Ed Kamlan, and by 9 p.m. he said the police department would call the next morning. On Wednesday, Fernandez learned that he misspoke and that Fawn Hines remains with the department.)
In the moments after the accident, Chisholm said, he had a chance to look Hines in the eyes.
“We pulled up right next to him and yelled at him to pull over,” Chisholm recalled. “He just looked at us and kept on going. He tried to gun it, but his fan was busted.”
That's when Chisholm called 911 and updated a police dispatcher on the direction and turns of the ongoing chase. Hines pulled up to his Huntington Beach home, got out of his truck and confronted one of the other drivers, a woman wearing medical scrubs, Chisholm said.
Hines seemed agitated and kind of out of it, Chisholm added. Hines walked toward his front door, but then a Seal Beach police officer arrived and handcuffed him, Chisholm said.
Chisholm said he gave his name and number to the police dispatcher and left following the arrest. Police still haven’t interviewed him, but Chisholm said he hopes he will have a chance to tell investigators what he saw.
“I think he should be in jail right now—a normal person would be,” Chisholm said.