BELLINGHAM - A mother of three young children remained in critical condition at a Seattle hospital Monday, Nov. 25, a full day after a driver ran a red light, hit her in a crosswalk and fled the scene in downtown Bellingham, according to police.
Witnesses saw Emma Lee Briceno, 25, of Ferndale, crossing Chestnut Street near La Fiamma Wood Fire Pizza at 1:47 a.m. Sunday, when an eastbound car, a 2002 Lincoln LS, didn't stop at the intersection with Railroad Avenue.
The Lincoln struck a southbound car on Railroad that had a green light, then hit Briceno in the well-lighted crosswalk, said Bellingham Police Lt. Rick Sucee.
The impact smashed the windshield on the passenger's side of the Lincoln. Briceno was thrown over the car's roof. She landed with injuries to her head and much of her body.
The car continued uphill, swiping a truck parallel parked alongside the Herald Building before speeding off.
"Police believe the driver was fully aware of what he did," police wrote in a media release, "demonstrating his total indifference to human life."
Six minutes afterward, the registered owner of the Lincoln called police to report the car stolen. The phone call came from a Bellingham residence, far from the scene of the crash, Sucee said. Still, the coincidental timing of that 911 call remained under investigation Monday.
Police found the wrecked car at 9:50 a.m. Sunday, ditched in a parking lot at Western Washington University. It was missing its front license plate. Sucee didn't know, off-hand, if the plate had been dislodged at the scene of the crash.
Officers tracked down the suspected driver, Cory "Little C" Mezo, of Custer, at a relative's house in Ferndale. Police said Mezo does not own the vehicle.
Moments before the crash, witnesses had reported the Lincoln - allegedly driven by Mezo - doing a "donut" on Holly Street. The car then drove south before turning onto Chestnut.
Mezo made his first appearance in court Monday. Whatcom County Superior Court Commissioner David M. Thorn set bail at $500,000.
Mezo has nine felonies on his record, for firearm violations, drug crimes, home burglary, attempted vehicle theft and first-degree theft. Court records show he was sentenced to more than three years in prison in 2009 for stealing a TV worth $2,000 and a Playstation 3, while one of Mezo's friends had a one-night stand with the victim in the other room.
He's now accused of vehicular assault, three counts of hit and run, and driving with a license suspended in the first degree.
Briceno, whose maiden name is Youngquist, graduated in 2006 from Meridian High School with her future husband, Adrian.
She remained in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center on Monday, according to a hospital spokeswoman.