Man Goes on Wild Ride After Hit and Run
A Southern Pines man took a wild ride on the hood of a car Friday after a minor fender-bender turned into an apparent hit-and-run and police chase.
With his car in the repair shop, David Francis, 59, had just picked up a rental from Rent a Wreck and Sales in Aberdeen and planned to take his family out to eat at a local restaurant the following morning. A 2006 Chevrolet driven by Michael Patrick Dowdle, 47, of Southern Pines, rear-ended his car at a stop light on U.S. 1 near Poplar Street about 5:30 p.m., according to police reports.
Dowdle now faces a slew of charges.
Francis said he got out of his car to exchange insurance and registration information with the other driver. When he got close to the car, he says, the windows were down and he smelled alcohol.
"The rental place had told me ... don't wreck this car, and four minutes later I was in a wreck," he said. "I just was thinking if this guy gets away, this is all on me and my insurance, so I guess that's what motivated me to act a bit foolishly," he said.
Francis said Dowdle seemed anxious to leave and told him he had to go because his wife was in the hospital. He even offered Francis $100,000 to allow him to leave.
"When it looked like he was trying to manipulate (the car) to get out, I went around in front of his car, figuring there is no way he'd try to leave," Francis said. "He hit me in the shins, and I fell on the hood and grabbed the windshield wiper, but he didn't leave right away.
"I just assumed if you had a guy hanging off the hood of your car, holding onto your windshield wipers, you are not going to take off, but he did."
As Dowdle drove off, Francis said he kept talking to Dowdle, telling him he had to stop, but he didn't listen.
"We were so engaged in conversation that it was just like we were driving and talking," Francis said. "The fact that were were conversing the whole time distracted me from the fact that, hey, I was on the hood of this guy's car, and he was driving up the highway. I think it distracted me from the real danger I was in."
Dowdle turned onto South Bennett Street in Southern Pines when a Southern Pines police officer, Sean Kelly, was driving toward the vehicle. Kelly stopped the vehicle near Bill Smith Ford, and Francis rolled off the car.
"The initial look on the policeman's face was, 'What are you doing on the hood of this car?'" Francis said.
Dowdle shut off his engine momentarily, Francis said, but when Kelly walked to the rear of the vehicle to check the license plate, Dowdle started the car.
Kelly attempted to stop Dowdle from leaving but was unsuccessful as Dowdle's car struck him in the left knee, police said.
"He (Kelly) also had scratches on his hand and arm from trying to keep him (Dowdle) from leaving the scene," said Lt. Rodney Hardy, of the Southern Pines Police Department.
Kelly got back into his squad car and continued his pursuit.
State Highway Patrol officers placed stop sticks at the intersection of Knoll and Midland roads. Dowdle ran over the sticks and eventually lost control of the vehicle, hit a "Do Not Enter" street sign and ran off the road near Midland Golf Club, ending the chase.
Pinehurst police estimated the damage to the vehicle at more than $3,000.
Dowdle faces charges of felony speeding, felony assault on an officer, driving while impaired, careless and reckless, fleeing and eluding arrest in a motor vehicle, no driver's license and resisting an officer, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill or inflict serious injury and hit and run leave the scene of an accident.
Kelly returned to work after suffering non-life-threatening injuries, Hardy said. Francis said he pulled muscles in his back but suffered no broken bones or other injuries.
"This is the first time I've ever run across this, where someone was struck by a vehicle, stayed on the vehicle until it stopped, and didn't sustain significant injuries," Hardy said. "It's just by the grace of God that nobody was seriously injured."
Southern Pines police caution motorists against attempting to stop or block a fleeing vehicle.
"The practice of standing in the way or jumping on the hood of a vehicle that is attempting to leave the scene of an accident is very dangerous and should be avoided," police said in a release.
Individuals should get the license plate number and a description of the vehicle and driver, and then call police.
Francis said he'll react differently next time.
"I'll never jump in front of a guy's car figuring he's going to just sit there," he said.
Contact Tom Embrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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