'Visibility was bad:' Prosecutors say driver admits to striking man snow blowing in Union Grove

James McKnight

RACINE COUNTY -- James McKnight, 43, of Union Grove faces one count of hit-and-run, causing injury after prosecutors said he turned himself in to authorities and admitted he caused a crash Friday night, Jan. 17 -- injuring a man as he cleared snow. McKnight's attorney said Wednesday, Jan. 22 during his initial court appearance McKnight is a former Marine and current dean of students at a high school in Zion, Illinois.

The crash happened shortly before midnight on S. Colony Avenue near 58th Road -- where prosecutors said the victim was struck at the end of his driveway as he used a snowblower. He suffered a laceration to his head that required stitches at the hospital, along with minor injuries to his neck, back, and left leg.

According to a criminal complaint, the victim indicated he was struck by a black SUV or truck headed northbound, and his snowblower was also hit. His neighbor called 911 after hearing a "thud." He ran outside and found his neighbor on the ground.

James McKnight

James McKnight

Investigators recovered pieces of the vehicle around the end of the victim's driveway -- including pieces of a broken side-view mirror consistent with a large black truck or SUV. Using the headlight assembly and serial number, investigators were able to determine it came from a 2015 GMC Sierra, or 2015 Chevy Silverado.

The complaint said investigators found fresh tire tracks in the northbound lanes of Colony Avenue, deviating from the roadway towards the east sidewalk, with a road sign struck before the tracks went back onto the sidewalk, continuing before coming back to the curb. The truck continued northbound before the victim was struck at the end of his driveway. The truck then continued north.

McKnight turned himself in on Tuesday, Jan. 21 -- telling investigators he wanted to speak about the incident on Jan. 17 with a black Sierra "that he owns." The complaint said he indicated he was in the area at the time of the crash, and "visibility was bad." He said he heard a "thump" and thought he hit an animal -- failing to stop at the scene.

McKnight made his initial appearance in court on Wednesday -- appearing via video call. Cash bond was set at $3,000, and he was ordered to have no contact with the victim or their properties. Additionally, he was ordered not to drive, and not to consume alcohol/drugs. A preliminary hearing was set for Jan. 30.

Meanwhile, officials with the Zion, Illinois school district where McKnight works declined to comment Wednesday.