- Associated Press - Sunday, February 23, 2014

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) - Central Florida authorities searched Sunday for a hit-and-run driver who killed a Lakeland-area bicyclist.

Polk County Investigators said Wayne Pope, 32, was biking home around 1:30 a.m. Saturday following his shift at a nearby recycling plant when he was struck and killed.

Pope was wearing a reflective vest and his bicycle had legally required reflective lights.

Investigators believe it was a white or silver Dodge truck that struck Pope. Sheriff Grady Judd is urged the driver to come forward.

“Turn yourself in before we track you down,” Judd said. “You need to explain why you hit someone who was following all the rules.”

Friends and family members described Pope as a hard-working father who lived for his 4-year-old daughter, Lydia.

They also urged the driver to come forward.

“I’m begging him to turn himself in,” said Pope’s sister, Mandy Messer of Lake Wales.

The family said knowing who hit Pope will provide some closure.

“We won’t be mad at him,” Messer said. “We’ll forgive him.”

Authorities said the vehicle that struck Pope likely sustained heavy damage. Witnesses heard the impact. Investigators say Pope was found in a ditch about 100 feet from where he was hit.

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