PHOENIX – The former Catholic bishop of Phoenix (search) told investigators he was worried he was being attacked when something hit his windshield, and had no idea he had hit a pedestrian, according to a transcript of a police interview released Wednesday.
"I'm anxious these days because I thought somebody would kidnap me or something, throwing something at me," Thomas O'Brien (search) said in the interview, conducted at his home about 36 hours after the accident that killed a jaywalker.
"I didn't know what it was to be quite honest," O'Brien said. "I didn't know how it happened. I didn't know where to start. I haven't had this happen to me before."
O'Brien said he didn't call authorities because he assumed someone threw a rock at his car or that he had hit a dog. He also said he had been concerned about his safety because he had recently received hate mail.
At the time of the accident, O'Brien was already dealing with the fallout of an immunity deal he struck with the county attorney. The deal spared him indictment on obstruction charges and required his admission that he sheltered accused sexual molesters in the clergy (search).
O'Brien stepped down last week after being charged with leaving the scene of the June 14 accident that killed Jim Reed, 43. Police traced his car after a witness provided the license plate number.
Despite being notified the next day by Vicar General Dale Fushek that police were looking for him in the investigation of the fatal accident, O'Brien never contacted authorities.
"I said well, if it's serious, they'll contact me. But I ... didn't know," O'Brien said in the police interview, which ended when an attorney for the bishop arrived.
O'Brien, 67, has declined to publicly discuss the accident and his criminal attorney, Tom Henze, did not return phone messages Wednesday.
According to the transcript, O'Brien asked police about Reed -- his age, whether he had a family, where he lived -- and called the accident "terrible."
Authorities continue to investigate whether alcohol, prescription drugs or other factors played a role in the accident, although prosecutors said last week they have no evidence O'Brien was impaired at the time.
O'Brien told police that aside from some sacramental wine during a confirmation ceremony, he had nothing to drink the night of the accident.
O'Brien could receive a sentence ranging from probation to nearly four years in prison if convicted of the current felony charge. He is scheduled to be arraigned July 7.