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Man accused of fatal hit-and-run in Bel Air was drinking prior to crash, witnesses tell police

A Bel Air man accused of striking and killing another man with his pickup on Main Street in Bel Air last week had been drinking earlier in the night, several witnesses told police, according to charging documents filed in Harford County District Court.

James Joshua Wallace, 26, of the 2500 block of Conowingo Road, was arrested Thursday in connection to the death of Alessandro “Alex” Joseph Lori. Wallaces faces up to 20 years and 2 months incarceration if convicted of the five charges related to the alleged hit-and-run.

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Wallace had been jailed at the Harford County Detention Center since his arrest. On Monday, a judge indicated Wallace would be released on home detention once his attorney drafted a motion seeking his release.

Bel Air police officers responded to a report of a pedestrian struck by a vehicle on South Main Street at 12:14 a.m. July 1 and found Lori suffering from severe injuries, according to charging documents. Lori was taken to University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center but pronounced dead about 30 minutes after officers found him.

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Witnesses said a dark colored pickup truck hit and dragged Lori to the corner of South Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Bel Air town spokesperson Patti Parker said Lori was not in the crosswalk when he was hit.

The truck did not stop after striking Lori, and the alleged driver did not turn himself in that day to any county law enforcement agency, according to the documents.

The following day, a person contacted the police and said he believed he was a passenger in the vehicle when it alleged struck Lori.

The passenger — who is not named in the documents — told investigators that he was drinking at Steelfish Grill in Bel Air when he met Wallace, and the two began drinking together. The two left for Looney’s Pub after the Steelfish Grill closed, taking Wallace’s pickup, but the bar was closed, so they changed course to pick up alcohol from a convenience store, the documents state.

En route to the passenger’s home to continue drinking, the passenger told police he heard a loud noise, according to the documents. He had been looking at his phone and not paying attention while Wallace drove, so he did not see anything, the documents state. Wallace continued to drive, the passenger told police.

Once at the passenger’s home, Wallace told the passenger he thought he might’ve hit something, and the two checked the pickup for damage, but did not see any, according to the documents.

Police interviewed a manager and a server at Steelfish Grill the same day. Both remember Wallace and the passenger drinking at the bar; they recognized Wallace because he used to work at the restaurant, according to the documents.

The server also told police that the passenger was speaking on the phone and Wallace was yelling at it so the other caller could hear him. The server thought the passenger was talking to a friend in law enforcement “because he made a joke about not pulling over any cars that evening,” the documents state, and Wallace, too, " “yelled something to the effect of the person on the phone call not stopping any Ford F-150′s.”

Deputies went to Wallace’s address on the 2500 block of Conowingo Road and saw the dark blue Ford F-150 pickup, matching a vehicle observed on surveillance footage of the crash, according to the documents. Police noticed a large dent in the front driver’s side bumper and blood appeared on the bumper and the rear left tire, according to the documents. Police then arrested Wallace at his home.

At Monday’s bail review hearing, Harford County District Court Judge David Carey said Wallace will be permitted release if he stays on home monitoring, and does not drive a car or drink alcohol. He will also be compelled to wear an alcohol-monitoring bracelet. However, release will not come immediately; first his attorney, Katrina Smith, must draft a motion for his release.

Smith said Wallace feels remorseful for what is alleged to have happened and been “inconsolable at times,” she said. Wallace barely spoke through the hearing. Smith argued that conditions could be imposed on Wallace, who is presumed innocent, that would allow him to leave the Harford County Detention Center. She also noted that Wallace was an Eagle Scout. Smith did not comment after the hearing.

Prosecutor Logan Hayes pointed out that Wallace had a drunk driving charge in Pennsylvania, where he previously lived, and was not forthcoming to police, noting the vehicle’s passenger came forward to inform law enforcement. Wallace was previously convicted of corruption of minors and was sentenced to probation in 2017 and was later confined on a 2018 DUI charge, according to Pennsylvania court records.

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The Bel Air Police Department is still investigating the incident, spokesperson Patti Parker said Monday. More charges are possible as investigators gain a clearer picture of what happened, she said.

“There are many interpretations of the evening’s events, our investigation is incomplete and may lead to additional charges,” Parker wrote in an email. “Please be patient as we continue this investigation with substantiated evidence and witness account, to reconstruct the events of July 1, to assure that it is concluded based on the facts.”

Parker encouraged anyone with information about the incident to contact Det. Cpl. Alex Moro at amaro@belairmd.org or 410-638-4524.

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