On Sept. 12, I was asked to provide courtroom security for the sentencing of Reed Hatch. I thought nothing of this as I have done this many times before. It was not until the sentencing hearing began and I listened to the prosecuting attorney and family members of DPS Officer Hopkins and Hopkins himself, that I was taken back to a bad day in 1994.
I was working as a deputy for the Sheriff's Office in Tonto Basin when an accident call came in -- this was nothing new as we did many of those -- little did I know at the time this would change my life and others forever. While working the accident along came the moth to the candle (a vehicle attracted to my emergency lights.) Three people had been struck by this vehicle, two of them officers.
Listening to Officer Hopkins brought all this back to me very clearly, as I never heard the vehicle approaching and remember very little about being flown to Scottsdale where the multiple surgeries and healing process would go on for months and years.
I had the same determination Officer Hopkins has that I would not let this keep me down and I was glad to hear him say this, and know he will make it.
Something I was not prepared for was hearing what his family had gone through. This part I had missed while healing in the hospital and it made me think back to what my family and wife had been through. Being contacted by an officer and being advised there has been accident is something no one can be prepared for and not easy words to hear. I would not have traded places with anyone going through this as it seems I had the easy part and the family had the hard part dealing with the not knowing what will happen next and the phone calls from doctors telling what they are working on next.
I also had the opportunity to listen to Mr. Hatch and his family and friends whom I have known for many years. They called this a very horrible accident and mistake of good judgment, not typical of Mr. Hatch.
My thought at this point was that he has taken away from Officer Hopkins things he will never get back and caused pain and suffering beyond his own imagination. I do feel he was remorseful.
The big picture is how this has derailed two families from their future, not that it cannot be overcome.
I do not believe a day goes by where a citizen or officer isn't hit by a rubbernecking driver or intoxicated person behind the wheel.
Our society has placed different values of time a person can serve for doing this, but it seems this is not enough or too much and must be decided on a case-by-case basis. The civil end of the spectrum often is much greater monetarily in an attempt at making it all better for the victim, when in fact most court-ordered judgments are never satisfied. All in all, I came away from this sentencing with a much greater respect for what the two families went through than what I felt for myself having gone through this.
I will never be the same and Officer Hopkins will never be the same and many other people who are struck and killed or maimed every year will never be the same. I still do traffic stops and see people who don't move over and come very close, this concerns me as all it takes is one inch too far. I hope both families in this case come out OK, but they will never be the same. This made for a very long day and a hard one, thinking of my wife and my child and my family who all lived through what these two families have, so many years ago.