I was about to experience one of my worst fears.
It was a beautiful spring morning in 1993 and I was headed from my home in St. Bernard Parish (Louisiana) to my family’s office in Metairie. After turning right on to Franklin Ave. to head to I-10W, I was coming up to a red light, but before I got to it and needed to completely stop, it changed to green.
There was a van in the left lane that had stopped and I noticed a young black teenager standing on the neutral ground (median), but he was just standing there. The van seemed about to move and so since it appeared clear, I started to accelerate to go through the intersection.
Instantly, without any warning, the young boy ran in front of my car and I slammed on the brakes, heard the screeching of my tires, and then BOOM as he rolled up to the windshield and then back off onto the pavement.
I will NEVER forget that awful noise of hitting that young boy.
Of course, I stopped and started to get out just as a lady in front of me stopped and got out of her car, and ran to the young boy. She was a nurse and she took control of the situation while we waited for NOPD and the EMTs to come.
Suddenly a crowd started to gather and this was primarily a low-income neighborhood with mostly African-Americans and I thought I was in serious trouble, being a white man that had just hit and injured a young black teenager or possibly killed him.
I knew this neighborhood well because I had built a Shoe Town nearby and in high school, I dated a girl who went to Dominican H.S. and lived only a few blocks from where this happened.
I was seriously shaking, scared for the young boy, and for what was about to happen to me because I was sure I was about to be arrested and brought to jail, one of my worst fears.
A few minutes later the ambulance and NOPD police car arrived and the crowd now was a few dozen people who had come out of their houses to see the commotion.
Thank God, the man driving the van had not driven off because he would later be the reason I was not arrested and taken to jail. He was an older African-American man and he completely corroborated my version of what had happened.
While I was sitting and waiting for the police to arrive I got out my registration, driver’s license, and insurance card. Suddenly, to my horror, I noticed the insurance was a few weeks past the expiration. I had not gotten notice of the renewal like I always did and had not realized the policy had been renewed. But I did not have proof of the new date.
So when the police arrived, one black and one white officer, I handed them my information and told them what had happened. By this time, the EMTs had already put the young boy in the ambulance and headed to the hospital nearby.
The white officer was clearly agitated and when he saw my insurance card had expired, he seemed to get angry and they both headed back to their car to run my plate, driver’s license, etc.
After what felt like hours later (actually just minutes) they came back and the white officer barked “please step out of the car and put your hands in the air,” but the black policeman did not seem to agree with that and told me to stay put.
He had just finished speaking to the van driver and this wonderful man told them that the young boy had been standing on the neutral ground (median) while the light was red, but when it turned green, he suddenly darted out in front of the van. The van had obscured my view and that is why I could not see that he had started to run across the street in front of us. He told the policeman that I had done nothing wrong, that the boy did indeed start to run across after the light changed to green.
To anyone viewing this scene, I was guilty of something because my vehicle hit this young boy, and it appeared I ran a red light and might have been speeding also.
But the van driver insisted that I did not run the red light, that the young boy began to run across when the light changed from red to green.
I don’t know what the nurse saw or told the policemen, but she had covered the boy with a blanket to help keep him from going into shock and did her best to keep him from moving until the EMTs had loaded him onto the gurney and put him in the ambulance. Frankly, I don’t remember if I even ever got her name and contact information, I was so nervous. But God had put her in that spot at just the right time!
Finally, the black officer either overruled or persuaded the white one that I should just be given a ticket for the expired insurance with no other charges. But for about an hour, I was scared to death that I was going to jail and charged with something serious for hitting this young boy.
The young boy had special needs, autistic or otherwise mentally challenged, and had gotten out of his grandmother’s house across the street to go to a local store. Either he got confused when the light changed from red to green or he didn’t even notice, but thankfully the van driver noticed him darting out and didn’t start moving. But it happened so quickly he could not react and blow his horn before I came up and the boy was in front of me.
Thank the Lord that he was not seriously injured, just some scrapes and bruises, but no other injuries.
How does this relate to what happened to George Floyd who was recently killed while being arrested?
Things are NOT always what they appear to be, and if not for the driver of that van on my left, there would have been NO way I could have ever proved that I was not at fault for hitting him.
To everyone else, it seemed I was just a white man speeding through an intersection, not even paying attention to the young boy that was crossing the street. But the van driver knew the facts, that the light was green for me, that his van obscured my view and that the boy had crossed on a green light (red for him).
This is why I have repeatedly said to WAIT for the evidence, that even a video does not show all that happened before what we have been shown over and over since this tragic incident happened.
Justice is usually slow, which is good because if first impressions were used to convict someone, I would have been arrested and charged with hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk, which is the truth, but did not factor in the actual circumstances of what happened right up to the moment of that horrible moment when I hit that young boy, he rolled up to my windshield and then off onto the pavement because I had slammed on my brakes. I was not at fault, but it surely appeared I was.
This is just one of the many times God has protected me from something serious when I or others could have been seriously injured or killed, such as the Christmas day when my family was rear-ended by a driver that hit us at over 50 mph. Had we been in my car, instead of my wife’s Delta 88, my daughter (sitting in the back seat) would have been killed and the other two of us seriously hurt or killed also.
It is also why I NEVER exceed the speed limit in places where I could hit a pedestrian because had I BEEN speeding, I WOULD have been arrested.
Trust me, you never forget something like this.