· Episode 10 ·
The unfortunate accident was his good fortune.
Thanks to the Schrock’s, Tom Jennings felt like he, for the first time, had a better understanding of the Amish. He was pleased they shared what they did. It would have been easier for them to say nothing to an outsider. Generally, remaining silent about their beliefs was the Amish community’s way.
After the wreck, Jennings made a decision to do his job despite knowing that the Schrock’s were content with their lot. As per departmental policy, he prepared a brief media report of the accident. It included a description of the hit-and-run vehicle. However, Jennings purposely excluded the names of the Schrock children.
Ironically, a crime involving Plain People was solved due to modern technology. The Public Information Officer posted the hit-and-run information about the Amish horse-and-wagon accident on social media. Then, an anonymous caller responded to the post and gave the location of a truck that fit the description of the suspect vehicle.
(Day 2) The day after the wreck, once Jennings was notified of the call, he easily located the suspect vehicle parked in a driveway at a residential address in Prairie Grove. With the front window shattered, the truck had obviously been in a head-on collision.
Deputy Jennings had considered what approach to take if he ever had an opportunity to interview the owner of the vehicle. The officer prepared himself to hear half-truths and blatant lies.
- “I don’t know anything about any accident.”
- “I don’t remember anything. I must have hit my head.”
- “Someone stole my truck and returned it.”
- “I always leave my truck unlocked with the keys in the ignition.”
- “I better not say anything until I speak to an attorney.”
Before the man who answered the door could identify himself, Jennings observed the cuts on the man’s face and a contusion and swelling around his left eye. Excitedly, he knew, This is the guy! But with those injuries, he was curious to learn if the truck’s airbag had deployed or not.
After introductions, Jennings pointed to the Chevy truck and asked Shawn Harris, “Is that your vehicle?”
“Yeah, it sure is.”
“I’m here because I’m investigating a hit-and-run accident that occurred yesterday.”
“That’s the truck,” offered Harris.
“I’m also looking for the driver,” Jennings continued.
“That’s me,” responded Harris.
Jennings was thrown off from his standard questioning. He hadn’t expected this. It was too easy. Something’s wrong, thought Jennings. This isn’t normal. Criminals evade questioning. Isn’t Harris a criminal?
Harris agreed to allow Jennings to examine the truck. Photos were taken, horse hair and paint chips were recovered as evidence, driver’s license and insurance information recorded. Everything went so smoothly that Jennings considered it unnecessary to have the truck towed for evidence. It would have been a wasteful expense.
Not reporting an injury accident was a serious traffic offense, so Jennings continued to be surprised by Harris’ cooperation.
This guy is facing jail time, thought Jennings. What’s the rest of his story?
Harris recounted to Jennings that he’d been at a party in the country and had, he knew, too much beer to drink. Usually his girlfriend was his designated driver, but she wasn’t able to attend the party, so he had stayed overnight to give himself a chance to sober up. The problem was, in the morning he’d started drinking again and then drove himself home. He decided to take back-roads in order to avoid the sheriff, but then he realized he was lost. He turned his truck around to ask some nearby Amish for help, to find out the nearest road back to town. Shortly after he turned around, the accident happened.
He remembered a runaway horse-and-buggy. “The horse unexpectedly swerved towards my truck,” explained Harris, “there wasn’t time for me to stop. I got scared, and since I’d been drinking, I didn’t report the accident until today.
“I’m sorry I left the scene of the accident. Was the Amish couple hurt?”
“You reported it today?” asked Jennings.
“Yes, when I saw the Facebook post with the description of my truck, I knew I had to do the right thing. I called the number listed and they thanked me for getting involved with fighting crime.”
Jennings was pleased with himself for having the suspect vehicle’s description posted and he was pleased with Harris.
“Are the people okay?” Harris asked again. “I owe them an apology.”
“They’re recovering from their scrapes and bruises. You know you killed their horse; he’s dead.”
“Oh, the horse! I’ll never forget the terror in his eyes. I’m so sorry.”
To be continued.
Until next time, happy writing and reading!