Victim of NE Hit-and-Run Identified

Police have made an arrest in a hit-and-run that killed a 71-year-old  Northeast D.C. woman.

Joel Russell Bromwell, 32, of Annapolis, has been charged with voluntary manslaughter. Police recorded his blood alcohol level as 0.11 and again at 0.10 following his arrest.

Police say Bromwell fatally struck Ruby Whitfield -- an usher at New Samaritan Baptist Church -- as she was leaving a church meeting with several other ushers around 8:15 p.m. Thursday.

She was hit by a Mercury Mountaineer while in a crosswalk in the 1100 block of Florida Avenue NE. Witnesses said the driver appeared to be speeding. Whitfield was caught under the vehicle and dragged 86 feet.

When the driver stopped at a red light at Florida Avene NW, a witness ran to the SUV. The driver appeared to be talking on a cell phone with ear buds in both ears, the charging documents say.

The witness told the driver he had just hit someone and ordered him to return to the scene, and the defendent nodded but then sped off, the documents say.

Bishop Michael Kelsey said some of Whitfield's fellow ushers were among those who witnessed the incident. One was able to get the license plate number of the Mercury Mountaineer.

Whitfield was taken to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where she was pronounced dead at 8:53 p.m.

Police later found what they believe was the striking vehicle in the 600 block of Elliott Street NW, about 10 blocks away. The vehicle, which is registered to Bromwell, had blood in the wheel wells and front-end damage, charging documents say.

They located Bromwell at his residence nearby, where he admitted to drinking prior to the crash, authorities said. He told police he hadn't realized at first that he'd hit someone, but when a witness told him what had happened, he panicked and drove away, according to charging documents.

The documents say Bromwell showed signs of intoxication and admitted to drinking two cocktails in the two hours before the crash. He failed a sobriety test and was then arrested.

Whitfield was active within her church and had recently celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary, News4's Pat Collins reported.

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