SSU professor hit on bike, gravely injured on Petaluma Hill Road

A longtime Sonoma State University environmental studies professor and avid bicyclist was struck on his bike and gravely injured Friday morning by a hit-and-run driver near Penngrove, the CHP said.

Steve Norwick, 68, was clinging to life at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital while family members traveled to his side, including his wife, Marthe, who was on a trip to Guatemala when her husband was injured, colleagues said.

A Rohnert Park man was arrested Friday after an off-duty CHP officer spotted a damaged Dodge Ram pickup that matched the description of the suspect's vehicle, the CHP said. Robert Cowart, 68, was being questioned Friday night and will be jailed on charges of felony hit-and-run, CHP Officer Eric Hill said.

"He told me he knew he hit somebody and he was late for work. He needed to get to work," Hill said.

Norwick was struck from behind at 8:38 a.m. while riding on Petaluma Hill Road near East Railroad Avenue.

The impact sheared off the truck's right side mirror and knocked out its front right headlight, leaving evidence at the scene that helped investigators piece together a description of the suspect's vehicle.

The driver was last seen headed south on Petaluma Hill Road toward Penngrove.

Cowart told officers the cyclist was in the middle of the road. But witnesses said the truck drifted onto the shoulder and struck the cyclist, which Hill said was consistent with the physical evidence.

Cowart initially said he stopped and checked on the cyclist, "thought he was OK and left," Hill said.

But Cowart later admitted "he never stopped," and that it was because he was late for work, according to the CHP.

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