Lowell, AR (KFSM)-About 65 people attended a prayer vigil Saturday evening at Lowell City Hall for Police Chief Joe Landers, Mayor Eldon Long said.
The police chief was hospitalized in critical condition after a motorcycle accident Friday in Panama City, Fla.
Landers, 51, suffered a fractured skull, broken pelvis and broken arm among other injuries, officials said. He was on life support Saturday afternoon but breathing on his own 50 percent of the time, officials said.
"We're optimistic he is going to continue to improve," Long said.
The evening prayer vigil was presided over by Eddie Davis, chaplain for the Springdale Fire Department, Long said. Among those who attended were officers from the Lowell Police Department, Benton County Sheriff's Office and Arkansas State Police, the mayor said. Also in attendance was a representative of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division and members of the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club.
The mayor and police officials conducted a news conference in City Hall Saturday afternoon, more than two hours before the prayer vigil, to discuss the wreck and provide updates on the police chief's condition.
Landers, riding a 2008 Harley-Davidson Street Glide he had driven from Arkansas to Florida, was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, Long said. He said Florida law does not require motorcyclists to wear helmets or the police chief would have had one on. Long said the police chief had not been drinking.
Landers, who has been with the department for 17 years and chief for 15 years, has a love for motorcycles, Long said. The mayor said he has ridden motorcycles with the police chief in the past.
A fund to defray expenses for the police chief and his family will be set up at Arvest Bank, Long said.
Capt. Randy Harvey, who previously served a chief while Landers was on military duty in Afghanistan, will lead the department in Landers' absence, Long said.
The accident occurred around 8 p.m. Friday, Long said. Landers, who was in Florida attending the Thunder Beach Motorcycle Rally in Panama City Beach as a spectator, was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital, officials said. Family and acquaintances were on their way to Florida, Long said at Saturday's news conference.
Detective Sgt. Paul Pillaro said a Nissan Maxima pulled in front of Landers' motorcycle without signaling and collided with the motorcycle. The car fled the scene after the accident, but authorities later arrested a suspect, Pillaro said.
Jimmy John Christo, 52, of Panama City, was arrested and charged with felony possession of marijuana and other offenses, including fleeing the scene of an accident and other traffic violations, Pillaro said.
The driver told authorities in Florida he is a bartender and had been drinking for an hour at a different establishment before the accident, Lowell officials said.
Pillaro said he received an update on the police chief's condition just before the evening prayer vigil began.
Landers opened an eye when one of his sons entered the hospital room and followed his son's movements, Pillaro said.