Puyallup cyclist hit by car Monday well known in community for civic involvement, community service

It wasn’t unusual to see Eric Renz bicycling around Puyallup.

He gave up driving a few years ago after experiencing trouble with his eyesight but even before that was an avid cyclist.

“He rode his bike to work in Tacoma, even when he didn’t have to,” said Ed Herde, a friend of the 66-year-old Renz.

On Monday, Renz was riding his bicycle near the Washington State Fairgrounds when he was hit by a car driven by a 19-year-old woman who told police she was taking a new anti-depressant and had smoked marijuana earlier in the day.

After hitting Renz at Ninth Avenue Southwest and Fourth Street Southwest, the car crashed into a fence and building on the fairgrounds.

Renz was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, where he remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit, hospital spokesman Scott Thompson said Wednesday.

Those close to Renz said he suffered multiple life-threatening injuries.

Kallie Marion James, the woman accused of hitting Renz, was charged Wednesday in Pierce County Superior Court with vehicular assault.

Witnesses told police James didn’t stop at the intersection where she hit Renz, who had the right of way and was wearing a bright yellow rain coat.

James told police the new anti-depressant made her “not feel the pedals” and that she hit the gas instead of the brake, according to charging documents. She also admitted to smoking marijuana earlier in the day.

After completing a field sobriety test, police determined James was under the influence of a drug and should not have been driving.

Superior Court Commissioner Megan Foley set her bail at $250,000.

Renz recently ran for state representative in the 25th District against Republican incumbent Hans Zeiger. He sought counsel from Herde, chairman of the 25th Legislative District Democrats, and five other people.

Herde and Renz met in 2009 through their political involvement, but quickly formed a friendship outside of politics.

“In everything Eric is involved in, be it volunteering at the food bank, volunteering with the shelter, working with his church, or working with the 25th District Democrats, his focus is always doing things that give people the chance to better their situation,” Herde said. “He is all about people.”

A Vietnam combat veteran, Renz spent 30 years as a pastor in Presbyterian churches. He currently is a parish associate for adult education at the First Presbyterian Church of Puyallup.

He also is involved with the Freezing Nights campaign in which Puyallup area churches provide emergency shelter and meals to homeless individuals from November through March.

Former Puyallup Mayor Kathy Turner described Renz as an “incredible community member” and also a friend.

“He would be the first one to be praying for someone else who is in his position,” she said. “It’s our responsibility to send those prayers out to him.”

Renz likely would be one of the first people to forgive the woman who hit him, Turner said.

“He sees the potential in every person, whether it’s the man on the street or the politician that can use an uplifting thought,” she said.

“I could always depend on Eric when I was mayor, whether it was for advice, whether it was for comfort or whether it was for prayers. And I’m sorry, but when you’re elected, you need all three.”

Renz has no family in the immediate area; a son and daughter live out of state, Herde said. They were expected to arrive to be with their dad Tuesday night.

Renz’s network of friends, including those in the faith-based community, also rushed to be by his side when they learned of Monday’s accident.

A recorded message at the First Presbyterian Church of Puyallup thanked people for calling about Renz and said updates on his condition would be made available through the church’s prayer chain.