Deaf bicyclist killed by hit-and-run driver in Cobb Co.

Suspect arrested in fatal hit-and-run in Marietta

Police have arrested a man and charged him in the hit-and-run death of a bicyclist in Marietta early Wednesday morning.

Joseph Gathambiri, 25, of Marietta, was riding a bicycle on south Marietta Parkway heading to work at a fast food restaurant just before daybreak when he was struck and killed by a black 1994 Toyota truck, according to Marietta police.

Police arrested Damon Thomas Lautch, 27, on Wednesday afternoon, and charged him with hit and run, DUI and first degree vehicular homicide, according to police spokesman Michael Gardner.

Gardner said evidence on the scene and a tip to Marietta police helped investigators locate the truck believed to be involved in the incident at a west Marietta home.

Lautch is being held at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center, Gardner said.

Gathambiri was struck and killed before 5 a.m. in front of the Cobb Community Transit bus terminal on South Marietta Parkway. He was a popular employee at the nearby Burger King , co-workers said. Employees told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Gathambiri, known affectionately as “deaf Joe,” was a cook at the restaurant.

Co-worker Linda Moore said she saw the accident investigation on her way to work, and thought, “I hope it ain’t nobody that works at Burger King.”

“He’s usually here before we get here, and when we got here, he wasn’t here,” Moore said. “I went down the street and it happened to be deaf Joe.”

Moore and other co-workers remembered Gathambiri as an aspiring rapper who rapped in sign language.

“He couldn’t talk to you, but he did do sign language or he would write down notes,” Moore said.

“He was always a helping person, always willing to give a helping hand,” she said. “Anytime you needed deaf Joe, if we were short-handed, he was always there.”

Moore said Gathambiri was “a very special person to me. I’m just going to try to get through this day without him.”

South Marietta Parkway was shut down between Aviation Road and Lake Drive while police investigated the incident. The busy roadway reopened to traffic about 7:30 a.m.

“It’s hard for me to understand how somebody could run someone down and not stop, but that’s what we have here,” Auld said.

Wednesday’s accident was the second fatal hit-and-run involving a bicyclist in Marietta in less than two weeks.

Lawrence Joseph Young, 55, of Marietta was killed March 31 when he was struck by a sport utility vehicle while riding a bicycle along Powder Springs Street.

Marietta police spokesman Michael Gardner said Young was hit by what witnesses described as a black SUV, possibly a Cadillac Escalade, that was seen leaving the nearby NCG Cinema just before the 7:45 p.m. accident.

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