Diabetic driver narrowly escapes major accident

Saturday, December 10, 2011

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.

View 13 comments
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. Please note that those who post comments on this website may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.
  • Restraint isn't always easy,,espeically under PRESSURE!! GREAT JUDGEMENT GUYS!!!

    -- Posted by Ya THUNK on Sat, Dec 10, 2011, at 8:41 AM
  • Well is was a full moon. But really, did anyone need to apply force like tazaring the guy? He was essentially in a coma at the time. His car just needed to be immobilized and he should have been kept in a safe place (like inside his car) under observation until his family and medical assistance arrived. Why break out the windows of the car and drag him out? And what kid of person would consider the option of firing their guns in this kind of medical situation? Use appropriate force and do no more harm to anyone than they are doing themselves.

    -- Posted by retinula on Mon, Dec 12, 2011, at 12:18 AM
  • although it seems a bit harsh to taze the man the police officers didnt know what they were dealing with the guy wasnt a criminal but could have very easily been one from what the caller and call came in as good job guys and keep up the good work that continues to keep our county and community safe

    -- Posted by countryboy72 on Mon, Dec 12, 2011, at 2:47 AM
  • Retinula, I'm not sure if you have ever been around diabetic patients but they can become quite violent, confrontational and aggressive. Yes, they can go into a diabetic coma but to say that this man was in that state is wrong, the officers reacted appropriately to the situation and let's just say that everyone involved is happy of it's conclusion seeing as it could've been a lot worse.

    If you aren't going to say anything nice and give praise when needed, why comment at all?

    -- Posted by WTFRUthinkin on Mon, Dec 12, 2011, at 7:45 PM
  • yes. I am around diabetic patients daily. I am a health care professional. I have never had to stun or threaten any diabetic patient, and I am certain I have dealt with more of them in the last month than you have in your life. The problem likely was that the officers didn't know what they were dealing with and feared the worst.

    Just like the guy wrote in his story, they were expecting bullets. Did the guy have a gun? Did the guy try to get out of his vehicle and physically assault an officer. More likely he was muttering to himself in a daze in his vehicle. Run the plates, call his family, and call for medical assistance. Meanwhile immobilize the car and watch the guy and get aggressive physically only if HE gets aggressive physically.

    sorry if you don't like my opinion WTF, but YOU might be wrong and YOU might need to think a little more broadly.

    Yes. Happily the situation turned out well for everyone. It is an opportunity for everyone to pause and think and learn.

    -- Posted by retinula on Mon, Dec 12, 2011, at 8:57 PM
  • "The problem likely was that the officers didn't know what they were dealing with and feared the worst."


    -- Posted by Keyboard_hero on Mon, Dec 12, 2011, at 10:02 PM
  • First of all I want to THANK GOD that no one was seriously injured in this episode!!! I was the one that observed and followed the vehicle for several miles on the phone to 911... I witnessed the whole event from beginning to end! And this was an EXTREMELY dangerous situation that could of resulted in the death of the man and ANYONE driving on US 40 that evening! I commend all officiers involved! They did a WONDERFUL job in a UNKNOWN and EXTREMELY DANGEROUS situation! It could of ended really bad that evening... but Thankfully the Man in the Jeep, all officers involved and everyone traveling highway 40 that evening are all well and safe to enjoy another Christmas with their family's!!! My only complaint is to the people who where traveling behind this man... that did nothing.. PLEASE if you see someone out of control CALL 911! YOU could save someones life! And if you do nothing, could you live with yourself if you find out a death accured as the result!!!! I couldn't!!!

    -- Posted by Friend4Ever! on Mon, Dec 12, 2011, at 10:12 PM
  • Lack of training to recognize the problem and tunnel vision. Enough said.

    -- Posted by Reader2 on Mon, Dec 12, 2011, at 10:20 PM
  • retinula, It is hard to believe you work with diabetics often. I know of many instances of people having diabetes, their sugar getting too low, and the person being argumentative, uncooperative, out of control, etc. I know of several cases where the person's family could not gain control over them and they would break away and get in the car to drive. Based on how the man was acting, it would seem to me that the officers could not take any chances. I don't imagine it was glaringly obvious that the man was a diabetic. Plenty people that are intoxicated, or on some kind of drugs, illegal or otherwise....which could be used in the wrong combination....could act very similar to how this person acted. I think it sounds like everyone involved did a great job. I am sure the officer's goal was not to use a tazer on a diabetic...it was just to gain some control and assess the situation I would imagine. Great job everyone. Glad the man and everyone else is okay. It so easily could have had a different outcome.

    -- Posted by not a native on Tue, Dec 13, 2011, at 2:15 AM
  • Glad to see cool heads prevailed. Very difficult situation that could have been much worse. This really emphazizes the need for diabetics to always know their blood glucose level. Scary stuff.

    -- Posted by Brad Hayes on Tue, Dec 13, 2011, at 5:56 AM
  • First of all, some guy driving erratic and fleeing police after several attempts to stop the vehicle doesn't scream "diabetic coma". Just because a suspect doesn't wave his weapon around, doesn't mean he isn't concealing one.

    Secondly, since you work around diabetics, this WOULD be your first thought .. not that this guy may have committed a crime (while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs).

    Let those who specialize in the field make their own decision on how to proceed. You wouldn't want a cop coming into your place of work and telling you how to treat a patient.

    Great job to all involved for using "appropriate force" to protect the suspect and his victims.

    -- Posted by Emmes on Tue, Dec 13, 2011, at 12:16 PM
  • Emmes, you make some good points. As they say, if you're a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. But that applies to law enforcement as well.

    Regardless, the outcome of this incident could have been much worse. Some good things happened that should be noted as positives when doing a post-mortem on this situation and there were some "opportunities for improvement" as well. I think maybe a review of medical situations that might occur and how to respond might be a good training topic for law enforcement. Lets not congratulate ourselves and miss opportunities to get even better.

    -- Posted by retinula on Tue, Dec 13, 2011, at 7:51 PM
  • RETINULA - Agreed.

    -- Posted by Emmes on Fri, Dec 16, 2011, at 11:39 AM
Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: