CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A man has been charged in an east Charlotte hit-and-run that left a bicyclist dead late Monday night.
Detectives have charged 37-year-old Michael Ryan Lambe with felony hit and run in the death of Franklin Leal. Lambe was arrested Friday morning at his home, where the vehicle involved in this incident was also located.
The crash happened around 11:01 p.m. on Harrisburg Road, closing the area for a time between Starnes Randall Road and Saltpeter Street. Police believe a white Toyota Corolla, between a 2005 and 2008 model, struck the bicyclist from behind and drove off. The bicyclist, identified by police as Leal, was pronounced dead on scene.
The Lucky Dog Bark & Brew Charlotte said Leal was an employee. They said Leal “always had a great attitude, smile on his face and loved each and every one” of the dogs brought in.
“We were in a total state of shock, and it’s still very hard to believe,” friend Denver Lawrence says.
Lawrence knew Franklin just about his whole life.
“That is forever going to torment me,” Lawrence says. “Because he had so much more to live for, and such a long life ahead of him, and I feel like it was just taken from him.”
“Somebody like Franklin, it just, it doesn’t seem fair,” another friend, Stefanos Ayiannidis says.
Franklin’s friends say he was the most positive person any of them have known.
“He’s the first person to tell you that he loves you, he tells you that he’s proud of you,” Ayiannidis says.
“There wasn’t an interaction with Franklin that wasn’t positive from start to finish,” Lawrence adds.
Lawrence had to tell Franklin’s co-workers at Lucky Dog Bark and Brew, the news of his friend’s death.
“They literally all broke down crying with me, and gave me a hug,” he says. “And I could just instantly tell the impact that Franklin had made on them, that they care so much.”
“I kind of was not even comprehending what the words were said,” Lucky Dog Manager Rachel Biernat says.
The messages have poured in there, where Franklin connected most with the community - people remembering the joyful dog handler.
“The dogs would just radiate to him,” fellow dog handler Marcus Bishop says. “He loved his job here, and the dogs loved him even more.”
The employees of Lucky Dog Bark and Brew have created a verified GoFundMe page found here. Proceeds will go to the Leal family.
Any witnesses are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600 or Detective Oberer at 704-432-2169. The public can also visit the Crime Stoppers website at http://charlottecrimestoppers.com/.