Neighbor never expected trouble from driver who allegedly killed Philadelphia officer

Philadelphia Police Highway Patrol Officer Brian Lorenzo (top left), killed early Sunday in a collision on I-95, is shown during a shootout on Warnock Street in North Philadelphia in 1999. JIM MACMILLAN / DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO
Philadelphia Police Highway Patrol Officer Brian Lorenzo (top left), killed early Sunday in a collision on I-95, is shown during a shootout on Warnock Street in North Philadelphia in 1999. JIM MACMILLAN / DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO
Posted: July 10, 2012

AS A DEBT-COLLECTOR, John Leck Jr. worked to collect what others owed. But some debts can never be repaid. Leck, a man with no known criminal history, allegedly got himself into just such a debt early Sunday.

He's accused of driving drunk the wrong way on Interstate 95 near the Cottman Avenue exit about 3:15 a.m. and killing veteran Highway Patrol Officer Brian Lorenzo in a head-on collision.

The men were just a year apart in age — Leck is 47, Lorenzo was 48 — but they led very different lives. Lorenzo was a husband, a father of three, an avid motorcyclist and a 23-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department. Leck is single, drove a 2010 Audi A6 and lived with his mother in Levittown. Leck survived the accident and was in stable condition with a broken ankle and internal injuries. Lorenzo was pronounced dead at the scene.

Leck's neighbor, Eve Burcosky, said Leck moved in with his mother after his father died a few years ago. She said mother and son were "best friends."

"I feel bad for her. I haven't seen no signs of her," Burcosky said. "She probably hasn't left his side at the hospital."

State Police guards have not left Leck's side either while he's been hospitalized, said State Police spokesman Cpl. Gerry McShea. Police scheduled a bedside arraignment for Leck in the hospital Monday on charges of third-degree murder, homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, involuntary manslaughter and related offenses, McShea said.

Police said they are awaiting blood work to determine what Leck's blood-alcohol content was during the crash and if he was under the influence of any controlled substances. Police have not said where Leck was before the crash.

Burcosky, whose own son was killed four years ago by a drunken driver when he was just 14, said she didn't know Leck as the type to drink or drive recklessly.

"I never seen him racing up the street," she said. "He was a man that went to work every day. They always think it's a scumbag, but this is a good guy."

Leck's boss at NCB Management Services Inc., president and chief executive Marcelo Aita, said he wasn't aware of any substance-abuse issues in Leck's life. He described Leck as a "long-term employee" who worked for the company for "quite some time."

"Yeah, this was surprising and tragic, it's not something we would expect in any way," Aita said. "It's a human tragedy for everyone involved."

Aita pointed from the front-lobby window of the Trevose-based company to the flagpole outside.

"It's a small gesture, but today we fly our flag at half-mast for the officer," he said.

Back in Leck's neighborhood, a 32-year-old neighbor who asked not to be identified couldn't get over the fact that it was Leck who took an officer's life, allegedly in a drunken-driving crash.

"I was extremely shocked. He was a very nice, quiet, hardworking man," the neighbor said. "An accident is an accident, but the DUI part doesn't help."   

Reach Stephanie Farr at farrs@phillynews.com or 215-854-4225. You can also follow her on Twitter @FarFarrAway and read her blog "Philly Confidential" at phillyconfidential.com.

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