Suspect in hit-and-run that killed Chattanooga police officer reportedly visited Ringgold restaurant Saturday before crash

Suspect in hit-and-run that killed Chattanooga police officer reportedly visited Ringgold restaurant Saturday before crash

February 26th, 2019 by Rosana Hughes in Local Regional News

Janet Hinds is lead into the courtroom to appear before Judge Christie Sell in the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Courts Building on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Hinds is charged with vehicular homicide, among nine total charges, in the hit-and-run death of Chattanooga Police Officer Nicholas Galinger. Judge Sell set Hinds' bond to $300,000.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter /Times Free Press.

Updated at 8:32 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, with more information.

As the investigation into the deadly hit-and-run crash that killed Officer Nicholas Galinger on Saturday continues, Chattanooga police say they have received tips about the suspect's whereabouts before the crash.

Galinger, 38, died after being struck by a car on Hamill Road in Hixson while inspecting a manhole cover after recent heavy rains.

Two days later, 54-year-old Janet Hinds, of Hixson, surrendered to police and was booked Monday on a $300,000 bond. She has since been transferred to Silverdale Detention Center.

Now, police have been told that Hinds was at the Farm To Fork restaurant in Ringgold, Georgia, at some point Saturday. It's not clear what time she was said to be there.

Investigators are following up on that and any leads provided to them, police spokeswoman Elisa Myzal said in a statement Tuesday.

A restaurant employee who answered the phone Tuesday said she could not confirm that police had made contact with the restaurant. The call then disconnected. Subsequent calls to the restaurant also disconnected until an employee said a manager was not in the building.

Later, the restaurant's owners took to Facebook to express their condolences and offer a formal statement.

"Lori and I are deeply saddened by the loss of Officer Nicholas Galinger From the Hamilton County Police Department , I know he was a Son a Father and Husband," Eric Hugh Harris wrote. "What a tragic situation for everyone involved and especially an Officer on duty protecting us."

Harris said police made contact with the restaurant's general manager Christy Hill on Sunday. He said Hill provided them with security footage and Hinds' receipt, which totaled $19.55 over a three-and-a-half hour period.

He said Hinds came in at 7:02 p.m. and paid her tab at 10:37 p.m. — 26 minutes before Galinger was struck on Hamill Road.

An investigator also spoke with other staff, who all said Hinds showed no signs of impairment, Harris wrote.

"At this time we can't reply anything else because of the still active investigation," he said.

Farm To Fork is described as a family-friendly restaurant, according to its website. The restaurant is open until 12 a.m. on Saturdays and is 2019's North Georgia Best of the Best first place winner for best happy hour.

Hinds is accused of speeding through the rain and crossing the double center line where she struck a warning sign placed in the center of the roadway alerting motorists of the exposed manhole cover.

Immediately after striking the sign, she allegedly struck Galinger. The hit-and-run occurred at 11:04 p.m.

Police on Monday asked for the public's help in piecing together the events that night, including where Hind had been before and after the crash.

"It's crucial to the case to learn more about her behaviors and activities immediately preceding the incident on Hamill Road and the approximately 30 hours after," Myzal said.

"Anything that could explain Janet Hinds' whereabouts or behavior prior to the loss of Ofc. Galinger is needed for CPD's Traffic Unit to build the case for prosecution," CPD Traffic Investigator Joe Warren said in a statement. "Right now, we are early on in the investigation and even the smallest detail could be helpful."

Anyone with information, photos, video, etc. is asked to call 423-698-2525, submit a tip in the Chattanooga PD mobile app, or contact Warren by email at jwarren@chattanooga.gov.

Police haven't said whether Hinds is cooperating with investigators now that she's in custody. But regardless of her cooperation, investigators still need evidence to build the case, Myzal said.

And asking for assistance isn't unique to this case, she said. Police always ask for people to come forward nearly every homicide via the homicide tip line.

Police still are not able to answer many of the questions surrounding the incident, such as where Hinds is believed to have been for the nearly 34 hours after the crash, as they are part of the ongoing investigation.

One thing police can say is that Hinds' phone records are subject to subpoena. That would reveal if she was texting at the time of or just prior to the crash.

It's also known a warrant was obtained to draw Hinds' blood. Tests could show whether she had any alcohol, drugs and/or metabolites (drug byproducts) in her system. There are many factors — frequency of use, body composition, age — that go into whether the blood test would reveal any evidence of substance use after so many hours, Myzal said, but it's certainly still possible. If Hinds tests positive, more charges could be added.

She currently faces charges of vehicular homicide, reckless driving, leaving the scene, failure to report an accident, failure to render aid, violation of traffic control device, speeding, drivers to exercise due care and failure to maintain lane.

Galinger will be buried Friday in his hometown of Cincinnati.

About 30-40 Chattanooga police officers are expected to make the trip.

On Tuesday night, Chattanooga City Council members were notified of a $2,275 donation to rent a bus to transport police officers to Cincinnati.

The donation was provided by members of North Hamilton County United for Responsible Growth.

"A friend of the police department asked for our support," said Dean Moorhouse, president of the group. "Our community respects our police officers who put their lives on the line every day. We were saddened by the loss of this young man's life."

Moorhouse called the donation a "small token of appreciation for those who protect communities like ours."

"We're so grateful to the community members who have reached out to help us and to help our police officers be able to attend the funeral, and to do so together," said Maura Sullivan, the city's chief operating officer. "It really is an amazing, amazing thing to be a part of the community that is providing this for our officers."

Officers will begin an escort for Galinger Wednesday morning from Heritage Funeral Home to Cincinnati, Ohio, beginning at 9 a.m.

Prior to departure, East Brainerd Road traffic between North Joiner Road and Gunbarrel Road will be stopped. The stoppage is not expected to last more than 15 minutes.

Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @Hughes Rosana.

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