Los Angeles Times

SUV ferrying congresswo­man caused fatal crash, police say

The initial account faulted the other vehicle involved in the head-on collision in northern Indiana.


INDIANAPOL­IS — Police have changed their descriptio­n of the crash that killed U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), saying Thursday that it was the SUV in which she was a passenger that crossed a state highway’s centerline and caused the head-on collision.

Walorski and two members of her congressio­nal staff died in the Wednesday afternoon crash in northern Indiana, along with the woman driving the other vehicle, the Elkhart County Sheriff ’s Office said.

The department’s initial account was that the car driven by Edith Schmucker, 56, of Nappanee, Ind., crossed into the SUV’s path, but the office released a statement Thursday saying investigat­ors had talked with witnesses and viewed video evidence that their preliminar­y determinat­ion of which direction the vehicles were traveling was incorrect.

Investigat­ors determined that the SUV driven by Zachery Potts, 27, of Mishawaka, Ind., crossed the centerline for unknown reasons in a rural area near the town of Wakarusa. Potts was Walorski’s district director and the Republican Party chairman for northern Indiana’s St. Joseph County. Also killed was Emma Thomson, 28, of Washington, D.C., Walorski’s communicat­ions director.

Walorski, 58, was first elected to represent Indiana’s 2nd Congressio­nal District in 2012 and was seeking reelection this year to a sixth term in the solidly Republican district. Walorski was a reliable GOP vote in Congress, including against accepting the Arizona and Pennsylvan­ia electoral votes for President Biden after the Capitol insurrecti­on.

Under Indiana law, it will be up to local Republican officials to pick a candidate to replace Walorski on the ballot. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has the authority to schedule a special election to fill the remainder of Walorski’s term, which ends this year.

The governor’s office and the state Republican Party said Thursday it was too soon to say when those decisions would be made, as tributes to Walorski’s public service continued.

The U.S. Senate chaplain included her, Thomson and Potts in the chamber’s opening prayer, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) praised all three in his opening remarks. He acknowledg­ed “how great a hole Jackie and her team are leaving behind” at the Capitol.

In Indianapol­is, members of the Indiana House, where Walorski served for six years before running for Congress, bowed their heads Thursday while Republican Rep. Timothy Wesco said a prayer for Walorski.

Wesco, who took over Walorski’s legislativ­e seat, called Walorski a “mentor” who was “passionate in everything that she did.”

“Her faith was central to her as a person, and her faith is what gives us hope today,” Wesco said. “None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.”

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