LAKELAND — Christopher A. Koenig did what a lot of people do when they’re out for a fun night wit friends: visit a local pub and have some drinks.
But in this holiday season, when the roads get more congested, law enforcement agencies want to be absolutely certain that local residents, visitors and tourists alike stay sober on the roads and don’t endanger themselves and others.
It’s a lesson, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said, that he wishes Koenig has taken to heart.
As a result of the bad judgement to consume alcohol and then get behind the wheel of a car, “Christopher Koenig has taken the life of a teenaged boy because he refused to take a cab or get a ride home from the bar,” Judd said. “Now he will have to suffer the consequences.”
Those consequences include getting arrested on Sunday, the same night that Polk County Sheriff’s Office released to the media photos of Koenig’s car, showing what detectives say is a serious dent caused by the accident that happened after Koenig struck a teenager, killing him, then fleeing the scene.
It was on Sunday when Polk County Sheriff’s Traffic Homicide Investigators arrested Koenig, 29, of 4048 Byrds Crossing Drive in Lakeland, and charged him with one count of leaving the scene of a crash involving death, and one count of driving under the influence causing death, both felonies.
The accident happened around 1:40 a.m. Sunday morning, the arrest report notes, when Koenig and a friend left the Paddy Wagon Irish Pub in Lakeland and headed off in Koenig’s 2012 black Ford F-150 truck.
They were traveling eastbound on County Road 540-A, east of Hallam Preserve Boulevard in Lakeland, when the truck that Koenig was driving struck 16-year-old Blake Dowdy of Lakeland.
Dowdy and a friend had been walking along the southern shoulder of CR 540-A when the truck hit him, the arrest report notes.
“After the truck struck Dowdy, it did not slow down, brake, or stop, but instead fled the scene, as witnessed by the friend,” noted Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in her report on the accident.
The impact of the collision, she added, was extremely severe.
“Dowdy was thrown approximately 87 feet into the drainage ditch south of the roadway,” Eleazer noted, adding that although paramedics responded to the scene, Dowdy was declared dead shortly afterwards.
Detectives were able to track down Koenig, the arrest report notes, because he voluntarily called law enforcement.
Forty minutes after the accident, Koenig called the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Communications Center “and told dispatchers that he hit someone in his truck while driving home from the bar,” Eleazer said. “He also told the dispatcher that he had been drinking at the bar.”
Deputies went to Koenig’s home, and as they were taking him into custody, they noted that he “exhibited signs of having consumed alcohol,” Eleazer noted.
Deputies also took blood from Koenig, and the sample was sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab for analysis. In the meantime, Koenig was arrested and booked into the Polk County Jail.
His first appearance was on Monday, and Koenig received a $5,000 bond on each count, so he is being held in the Central County Jail in Bartow on $10,000 bond. His next arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 31.
Judd noted that this holiday season, the victim’s family will have to cope with the pain of their loss, while the case itself should serve as a tough reminder that drinking and driving can have dangerous and tragic consequences.
“The Dowdy family will forever suffer from a tremendous loss,” Judd said. “I can’t stress this enough — do not drink and drive. The damage that you cause when you do is irreparable, and lasts a lifetime.”
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