BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Will Jones is recovering from a hit-and-run accident that nearly claimed his life back in June. Now the publisher of Black WNY is trying to stay positive and hopeful, but like his family, he wants the person responsible for the accident apprehended.
"I would like to know why the person would keep running, keep going and not face up to what happened," Jones said in an interview with Channel 2's Claudine Ewing inside his Buffalo General Hospital room. "I would've stopped, but he kept going, that was surprising to me that humans would do that in this day and age of insurance and cameras. You would think they would stop and face the music, but he kept going and that hurts."
Jones' mother Myrtle sat with him. She too is equally pushing for justice.
"I don't want to see the man crucified or anything like that, I just want him to own up to what he did," she said. Mrs. Jones is not pleased with pace of the investigation. She said the only time she's heard from police is when she calls the department. Her plea to police is this: "Please just find out who did this and why they would run away."
The accident happened early on June 26 on Masten and East Utica in the city.
According to the Buffalo Police report, a male driver of a Dodge was speeding when he hit Jones' vehicle, sending it into a tree. The speeding vehicle then hit a garage and a parked car on Masten Avenue.
The police report says: "the driver did leave the scene" and "was inside a Harlow Place (home) but would not come to door to speak with police."
"It's just amazing how things can change in your life over moments and it changed and it gave me a new perspective on life," Will said.
Will doesn't recall the accident. He's been at Buffalo General where he's undergone surgeries and he's currently in intense physical therapy.
"I hope to live out the rest of my life, giving back," he said.
Jones says he hopes to one day return to work as a photographer and publisher.
"I want to continue my work in making Black WNY a destination place," he said.
Following our interview with Jones and his mother, we took their concerns to Buffalo Police. Here are some of our questions, answered by Lieutenant Jeffrey Rinaldo of the Buffalo Police Department.
WGRZ: Where does this case stand?
Lt. Rinaldo: Well currently, the case sits with our accident investigation unit. So anytime that there’s a serious accident injury in the city or a hit and run, the case goes from the patrol division and district in which it occurs to our accident investigation unit. Once it’s assigned there, then an investigator follows up with the patrol officers…they collect evidence, they take photos, and then they follow up accordingly with statements in an attempt to identify the person who was driving the vehicle at the time of the incident.
WGRZ: Since the vehicle is known, and police were able to locate the vehicle, why is making an arrest potentially taking so long?
Lt. Rinaldo: You have to be able to identify the driver of the vehicle. As I've said in other interviews before, you can't charge the vehicle of the crime, you have to charge the driver, not even the owner. So unfortunately, the law doesn’t allow to compel a vehicle owner to tell us who was driving the interview.
WGRZ: There were witnesses, a lot of damage, and police located a car at a house. Why was that not enough for police to be able to compel that person to come out?
Lt. Rinaldo: Again, in this particular case, we found the car almost immediately. We were able to seize that vehicle because we had probable cause to believe that that vehicle was involved in a crime. As far as being able to then find a vehicle and then enter a residence and start searching for suspects, that would be outside the realm of what we’re allowed to do without a warrant. And the requirements to get a warrant have very strict procedures and things that you need to meet in order to obtain a warrant, and not every case allows for that.
WGRZ: The family is essentially crying out that someone won’t come forward and why haven’t police made an arrest yet. These are people emotionally traumatized from what happened. What can you say to that family?
Lt. Rinaldo: Again, I feel for any victim who is innocently struck by a vehicle for doing nothing wrong. I can't begin to imagine the pain and the toll that that takes on somebody and their family…One moment your life is fine, and then the next moment you’re in the back of an ambulance dealing with lifelong injuries. Trust me, we want to make an arrest in these cases the moment they happen. But unfortunately, they are complicated cases, there is a lot of evidence that needs to be worked through and collected, and again, I think you see in most of these cases — some take longer than others — but, generally they do end with someone being held accountable.