Man may have covered up hit-and-run, police say

Posted: Wednesday, March 22, 2000

Police now believe that what was reported as a hit-the-house-and-run incident was a cover-up.

A man reported to police about 3 p.m. March 12 that a vehicle had struck the front door of his Albatross Avenue home and then left the scene. The man also told police his girlfriend had injured herself running to the door to see what the noise was.

But Juneau Police Sgt. Tom Wehnes said the man who reported the incident, former Coast Guardsman Mark Crone, owns the 1978 Chevy Blazer that struck the house and was a passenger in it during the crash. The girlfriend, a Coast Guard enlisted person, was also a passenger, police said. She declined medical assistance.

The driver of the Blazer was Patrick Hernandez, 20, who had been drinking, police said. Hernandez is on active duty with the Coast Guard as a fireman at Station Juneau, said Petty Officer Roger Wetherell.

Crone, 23, was a seaman with the Guard until a few days before the incident, Wetherell said. The house that was struck is in the Mendenhall Valley and is owned by the Coast Guard. The house had $3,000 damage to its door, jamb and wall. The Blazer had about $300 damage.

No one has been arrested or charged in the incident, but information about the alleged false report of an emergency has been turned over to the district attorney's office, Wehnes said.

The Coast Guard also is investigating. ``There are no official charges in this matter,'' Wetherell said. ``But we have appointed an investigating officer and are looking into the situation to gather evidence.''

Police were chagrined that they had been led on a wild goose chase.

``Certainly it's a concern to the Juneau Police Department that people felt, to cover a mistake they had made, they needed to make up a crime and we took up a lot of patrol service time trying to solve it,'' said Sgt. Walt Boman.

``It's frustrating to me, as a patrol supervisor, that we were out looking for somebody who didn't exist - because someone made a mistake and didn't want to own up to it,'' Boman said.

Fireman Hernandez made the news in October when he was awarded the Coast Guard Achievement Medal for his role in saving the cruise ship Spirit of '98 after it grounded in Tracy Arm on July 27, 1999. Hernandez is from Houston, Texas.

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