PUTNAMVILLE -- A Thursday evening incident on U.S. 40 that could have ended in tragedy several times, resulted only in some property damage and a trip to the hospital for observation.
What looked on the surface to be a drunk driver turned out to be a 58-year-old diabetic Brownsburg man experiencing an extremely low blood sugar level.
Putnam County Sheriff's Department Deputy T.J. Smith received a call about a possible drunk driver westbound on U.S. 40 near Putnamville at 6:23 p.m. According to callers and witnesses, the 2004 Jeep was driving erratically and had crossed the centerline several times.
Smith first spotted the vehicle at approximately 6:30, at which point Cloverdale Police Department Sgt. Charlie Hallam was already in pursuit. The car again crossed the centerline, nearly causing a head-on collision with an eastbound vehicle, before the other driver swerved to avoid contact.
After narrowly missing several mailboxes on the south side of the road, the Jeep crossed back into the westbound lanes.
Both officers turned on their lights and sirens, which the man ignored. He eventually came to a stop on the north side of the road. When police then approached the vehicle, they told him to turn off the vehicle and show his hands.
The driver did not listen, instead hitting the accelerator and continuing westbound.
His vehicle again left the roadway, climbing a hill on the roadside and hitting a fence post. At this time, Hallam tried to drive his car up the hill to wedge the Jeep in.
Although he could not get his car very close, Hallam approached the vehicle on foot and tried to open the man's door, at which time he again pressed the gas pedal and continued westbound.
Smith said the vehicle then "bounced up and down the ditch line," almost hitting a telephone pole once and eventually striking a Verizon telephone box in front of Putnamville Correctional Facility.
Deputy Adam Hull had also arrived on the scene, and was able to shine his headlights in the windshield so the other officers could see the man's hands. Although the man was unarmed, he remained uncooperative and combative.
Smith said the man yelled excitedly when the officers broke out his front window, shouting "Yeah!" and "Woo-hoo!"
The deputy feared the worst.
"I was really waiting for the glass to break with gunfire coming at us," Smith said.
The officers got the man from the car and tazed him to get him under control. They initially took the man into custody, but also called Operation Life.
When the man's blood sugar level was taken, the reading was well below 50. Operation Life personnel treated him for the condition, and he began to come to his senses.
"He was really apologetic," Smith said.
Police contacted the man's wife, who said she spoke to him on the phone around 6 p.m., at which time he was acting strangely. She told officers he becomes aggressive when his blood sugar is extremely low.
The man was transported to Hendricks Regional Health for further treatment of his condition, as well as an abrasion to his head.
The man was not charged with any offense.
Upon reviewing the video of the incident with one of his superiors, Smith was told he and Hallam would have been within their authority to fire their guns at the driver.
The deputy was just glad it didn't come to that, and that no major accident occurred. Even the estimated property damage was no more than $2,500.
"Thank god he got stuck on that phone box," Smith said.