Charges: Passengers implicate driver in Bellingham hit and run

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 27, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - Two passengers identified a 29-year-old Custer man as the hit-and-run driver who struck a mother of three in a downtown Bellingham crosswalk this week, according to charges filed Wednesday, Nov. 27.

Four hours after the crash two men - James Corey Lorden and Courtney Bryce Prosser - called 911 to tell police their side of the story.

The 28-year-olds had been barhopping downtown. Cory Ira Mezo picked them up around 1:30 a.m. in a black 2002 Lincoln LS, a car they'd seen him driving around before. The car belonged to Mezo's fiancée. She'd given a spare key to his mother.

Within seconds of getting in, Lorden told police, Mezo started "driving crazy." Police said the driver of the Lincoln did a "donut" on Holly Street, before heading south, then turning east onto Chestnut. At the intersection with Railroad Avenue, the Lincoln barreled through a red light and clipped a '91 Nissan Coupe, leaving it with about $2,000 in damage.

The Lincoln kept going and hit Emma Lee Briceno, 25, who had been in the well-lighted crosswalk, heading south across Chestnut. She smashed into the windshield, flipped over the car and landed on the asphalt with life-threatening injuries.

Lorden and Prosser were drunk, according to the charges, but they were "pretty sure that Cory ran a red light when he hit her." They told police they demanded to be let out of the car, and that he let them out.

Briceno, meanwhile, was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition. She has extensive brain swelling and her prognosis is "poor," according to the charges.

Police found the wrecked Lincoln abandoned in the gravel lots at Western Washington University. A half-hour later, police found Mezo at his father's house in Ferndale. He had a "moderate odor of intoxicants on his breath," according to charges. He said he didn't know anything about the crash.

Neither of the two passengers has a clean record.

Lorden, 28, spent time in prison for breaking into a Primrose Lane apartment with a shotgun to steal cash and drugs in 2005. In July he was charged with choking his girlfriend outside her Texas Street apartment.

Prosser has been charged with stealing his on-and-off girlfriend's Dodge Durango after a drunken argument in March. Police said when they stopped him on Alabama Street, his eyes were bloodshot. An officer asked how much he'd had to drink.

"Not enough," Prosser answered, according to the charges.

His 1-year-old son was in the car, along with $350 cash and his girlfriend's credit cards. Prosser is still awaiting trial for domestic violence theft of a vehicle, second- and third-degree theft and reckless endangerment.

Mezo has nine felonies on his record. His license has been suspended. He's been charged with vehicular assault, felony hit and run causing injury, hit and run of an attended vehicle, hit and run of an unattended vehicle and driving with a suspended license.

Briceno, 25, recently gave birth to twins. She remained in a medically induced coma Wednesday, friends said.

A Whatcom Educational Credit Union fund has been set up, account 326058, to help the Briceno family. Outside of Whatcom County, people can donate to Industrial Credit Union account 66931.

Reach Caleb Hutton at caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com or 360-715-2276. Read his Dispatcher blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

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