By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily
It took the Gillette Police Department less than a day to track down the hit-and-run driver who plowed into Cowboy State Daily reporter Jen Kocher’s house on Thursday.
A 23-year-old female driver was issued citations Friday evening for failing to report the accident and driving with a suspended driver’s license.
Kocher refused to name the driver or her passenger.
“I’m not into public shaming,” Kocher said. “She knows who she is, and I sincerely hope she uses this as an opportunity to take her life more seriously and be a more responsible human.”
The accident happened Thursday afternoon around 3:30 p.m. when Kocher was working in her basement office and was startled by a loud crashing sound upstairs that she described as sounding like a large semi-truck crashing through the house.
When she ran upstairs to investigate, she saw the back of blue-green older model SUV speeding away, leaving skids marks in the driveway as the driver attempted to flee the scene.
Kocher didn’t get a look at the license plate and couldn’t see driver or passenger behind the tinted black windows.
Immediately, neighbors in her cul-de-sac of condominium homes ran out to see what had happened. A couple of eyewitnesses were able to provide vague descriptions of both the car and driver.
Kocher’s next-door neighbor, however, had video footage from his new security cameras he’d installed just the previous week.
The neighbor and his partner, both of whom wished to remain anonymous, were able to provide clear video showing an older model SUV barreling down a grassy hill in the middle of the cul-de-sac, smashing into Kocher’s garage, then doing a swift three-point turn before exiting the area.
Authorities cited the video footage many times in the police report, noting they were able to get a positive confirmation of the suspect’s vehicle by comparing it to the vehicle in the video.
“Of particular interest was the fact that the front and rear rims were different on the passenger side, with the rear tire potentially being a smaller ‘spare’ tire, and the front being a chrome looking ‘five spoke’ style wheel,” the report reads.
“The vehicle matched the description, including having an off-colored (blue) front passenger side fender, and rims on the passenger side matched the rims in the video,” it said.
Kocher said watching the video made her “blood boil.”
“It’s not the hit, it’s the run that bothers me,” she said. “Accidents happen, but who just takes off like that? “Total loser move.”
The driver, however, also had her own story to tell.
Apparently, the 23-year-old had been driving with her boyfriend, who was also in the car at the time of the accident, after getting into an altercation with a 17-year-old girl. The younger girl was reportedly trying to get the driver to fight her, so the driver fled, chased by the juvenile in her own car.
The driver was angry and “running away,” she later told police, because she did not want to get into trouble for hitting a “girl.”
In her case, “running” meant barreling down Gillette’s Ninth Street in her Ford Explorer as the juvenile chased behind. When the 23-year-old attempted to duck the younger girl by darting into the eastern entrance of Kocher’s street, she lost control and flew over the grass into the condo.
After fleeing the scene of the accident, the driver then transported her boyfriend to the Campbell County Probation and Parole office for his scheduled urinalysis.
According to the police report, Kocher’s neighbor was not the only person to catch the accident on video. After being contacted by police on Friday, the 23-year-old showed them a text from the younger girl. The text included a photo of the 23-year-old sitting in her vehicle at the probation and parole office along with a short video of the accident that the younger driver had taken herself.
The juvenile had been right behind her when she crashed into the garage, but she, too, fled without telling anyone.
The boyfriend confirmed the 23-year-old driver’s story.
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No one was hurt in the accident and the driver appears to have current insurance.
Apart from her damaged vehicle, which took the brunt of the impact, Kocher said she is most upset that her favorite bicycle that got squashed between the wall of the garage and the bumper of her car, cracking the frame.
Despite the annoyance and cost of the event, she said a lot of good came out of it, including the support of her “awesome” neighbors who even delivered a plate of chocolate chip cookies and a hand-drawn card with a smiley face to her the next evening to make up for her “bad day.”
She also wanted to thank the Gillette Police Department, all her neighbors and people who contacted her in the wake of the accident to see if she was okay.
“When this happened I said they wouldn’t get away with it because there’s no finer police department than Gillette’s,” she said. “I was 100 percent right.”