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Father of 17-year-old struck by a van near Decatur High School questions police account

Crime and public safety Decatur Trending

Father of 17-year-old struck by a van near Decatur High School questions police account

The front steps of Decatur High School. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt
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The father of a 17-year-old hit by a van near Decatur High on June 7 questioned the police account of what happened to his son.

Police say their report is accurate.

The young man’s father, Mark Ledden, identified his son as Sam Ledden. Mark said his son was in the hospital for a few days and had leg surgery.

The original account says Sam Ledden wasn’t in a crosswalk and that the driver of the van wasn’t at fault.

According to Police Lt. Jennifer Ross, “On Friday, June 7, 2019 at approximately 8:44 a.m., Decatur Police responded to an accident involving a pedestrian and a vehicle in the 200 block of North McDonough Street. The vehicle, a Ford Econoline van, was traveling northbound on North McDonough Street. The pedestrian was standing on the east side curb about 4 or 5 feet away from a crosswalk with his back to the roadway when he stepped backward and turned and was struck in the arm by the side mirror of the passing van. The pedestrian fell to the ground and sustained a laceration to one of his legs. The pedestrian was transported to an area hospital for evaluation. No citations were issued.”

Mark said that account isn’t consistent with what his son told him. For one thing, his son believes he was in a crosswalk.

“He says he was in the crosswalk,” Mark Ledden said. “Some people said, ‘Nice umbrella.’ He turned around toward them and opened the umbrella, then he got hit by the van.”

All of his injuries were to his lower body, Mark Ledden said.

“His leg was lacerated down to the bone and his tibia was broken,” he said.

He’s not sure why police didn’t contact him after his son was hit and why the driver was not charged. He said the officer on the scene was heard disagreeing with the other officer about who was at fault in the incident. Attempts to reach the driver were unsuccessful.

Ross said that, “After the incident occurred, the pedestrian was on the telephone with his father. Also, school administrators were on scene and made aware of the situation. The driver was not cited because the investigation revealed the pedestrian was at-fault.”

After an inquiry from Decaturish, the department reviewed body camera footage to see if the officers disagreed about who was at fault.

“The supervisor reviewed bodycam footage and there was no disagreement,” Ross said. “One of the officers is an FTO (Field Training Officer) who is training the second officer, who is new. Training new officers involves back and forth discussion and questions about everything as you are handling calls and stops.”

A copy of the police report syncs up with the Police Department’s initial account of events.

Ledden, who reviewed the report, said he would need to dig deeper.

“The narrative it presents is meaningfully different from our son’s recollection,” he said. “We have decided we will need to pursue our own investigation to ascertain what actually happened, so I think at least for now we need to hold back from any further public comment.”

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