A major crash in Sharp County sent a Mississippi boy to the Fulton County Hospital May 25, where he was treated for injuries before stealing Dr. Griffin Arnold's car, which he later crashed into a utility pole in Black Rock. Authorities said the boy just wanted to go home.
A juvenile, 17, of Coldwater, Miss., was traveling south on Highway 63 Memorial Day weekend when the black 1998 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck he was driving traveled 152 feet down an embankment, according to Sharp County Sheriff's Deputy Gary Mitchell.
The truck then sideswiped a tree and traveled an additional 20-feet before coming to a stop.
According to Mitchell's report, the boy stated that he had been text messaging on his cellphone and guessed that is what made him run off the roadway.
"I could smell a strong odor of intoxicants coming from the driver's person," Mitchell said. "I administered a portable breath test that had a result of .15. Spring River Ambulance transported the driver to the Fulton County Hospital."
According to the police report, the boy was charged with driving under the influence as well as careless and prohibited driving.
After a short stay at the hospital, the boy was released from treatment and then he turned his attention to Dr. Arnold's car. Salem Police Chief Al Roork handled the case after the car was reported stolen.
"He got up there around 10:05 a.m., at the hospital and he left around 12:05 p.m.," Roork said.
"Dr. Griffin Arnold had his 2004 Subaru Impreza STI parked at his clinic by the hospital. He had forgotten and left his keys in the car. It was full of gas and apparently this young man seized an opportunity," Roork said.
"He didn't know anyone in Salem and was unfamiliar with this place. He didn't know anyone here at all and, at that time intoxicated, wanted to go home. He got in (Arnold's) car and he took off for home. He made it to the intersection in Black Rock where the BP station is, before the old Cavanaugh Ford place," Roork said.
"He left the road and centered a utility pole which totaled Dr. Arnold's Subaru sports car. In the process of the electrical lights falling, another vehicle was damaged as it was driving down the road," Roork said.
In cooperation with the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department, Roork came into contact with the boy's parents.
"I have received a couple of calls from this young man's mother, very nice people and very cooperative. They said he has been a straight 'A' student and had never been in trouble, but he got up here and got the firewater in him with his buddies and swarmed is what it amounts to," Roork said.
Roork spoke with prosecutor Dwayne Plumlee who said the boy will be charged in juvenile court and will have to travel back to Fulton County to address the charges.
The Salem Police Department has standard operating procedures in place in the event a minor under the influence of alcohol is involved in a wreck and taken to Fulton County Hospital.
"From my department, we would make sure that someone had custody of him until we could release him to his parents. That is the policy of this department. An intoxicated 17-year-old is very likely to do exactly what he did. But I can't tell you what any other agency's policy is on that. I can just tell you what mine is. We are going to make sure that 17-year-old is safe," Roork said.
Dr. Arnold, who was working a weekend shift, stepped outside to find his car not only out of place but gone completely.
"My first thought was this is a very bad joke," Dr. Arnold said. "After I verified it wasn't a joke I had to say, I think it's really stolen."
After working with Roork, Dr. Arnold was able to locate the mangled wreck he had driven to work just the day before. "Monday afternoon is when I actually went to go see it," Dr. Arnold said.
Although his sports car was in shambles, the damage was not at the forefront of his mind.
"My actual first thought was, the car is made very well to protect the driver. It sacrificed itself to save the driver and that is what I liked about it," he said.
Dr. Arnold said he is very glad the driver of the car is not hurt. "I think we have all done some stupid things in our life. I think he is going to regret doing this and I hope that he is young enough that he can learn from this and not make this a pattern in his life," Dr. Arnold said. "He doesn't have to let this ruin his life."