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When you’re a victim of a crime, and you feel the investigation into it hasn’t been handled at its best, it can make it difficult to fully trust law enforcement.
After a college student who had been drinking killed my mother, I had more questions than answers about the investigation.
Although I had spent years as a journalist building relationships with law enforcement officers, when I was suddenly thrust on the other side of things, distinct lines of trust blurred.
I don’t know if I’ll ever see law enforcement officers the way I did before my life story unfolded in newspaper headlines.
In the year I’ve been down here in Brunswick County, I’ve shared elements of my story on these pages. My opinion pieces have sparked comments from many readers, all of which were appreciated.
On several occasions I ran into Ronald Hewett. who commented on my story. He expressed his condolences for my loss and thanked me for driving home important points about drinking and driving.
On other occasions, he even made comments about the tragedy to our crime reporter.
When it comes to drinking and driving and understanding the horror associated with it, I believe there are no people who can better understand it than those who work in emergency services and those who have felt its pain.
As a reporter, I’ve witnessed many gruesome wreck scenes, but my experiences pale next to those who work and volunteer to save and protect lives.
When I talked to the sheriff of this county about the trauma of drinking and driving, I thought I was talking to someone I could trust.
When Hewett’s deputies joined with other law enforcement officers to do traffic stops as part of a Mothers Against Drunk Driving initiative last year, I felt safe and glad to know a leading law enforcement official took the dangers seriously.
But when written and recorded statements accusing Hewett of drinking and driving and/or driving while under the influence of other substances broke, it knocked the wind out of me.
How can I trust our roads are safe from the very idiots who endanger lives by drinking and driving when the highest-ranking local law enforcement representative in this county has been accused of doing just that?
How can any emergency service person who has seen the mangled wreckage of automobiles, who has seen torn, disfigured bodies from wrecks and watched innocent people mourn, do the very thing that causes such pain and heartache?
If any of the intoxicated driving complaints against him are true, how could Hewett look into the eyes of someone who has lived such pain and offer support?
I’m not nave enough to believe he is the only law enforcement officer who has ever done such. It’s shown in affidavits at least one other officer did the same. But I’ve never felt so slapped in the face than to hear someone directly express sorrow to me and then do the very thing about which he offered comfort.
My knowledge of Hewett is limited; we’ve only spoken on a handful of occasions. He once sat in my office, as his eyes filled with tears, and told me he had no idea why the federal grand jury was investigating him.
He also looked me right in the eyes when he commiserated about my drunk driving experiences.
After two years of healing from uncertain situations with law enforcement, Hewett’s actions have re-opened old wounds. I’m left, again, trying to wrap my head around what is right and good and the reality of this world.
For those law enforcement officers left looking out for the good people of Brunswick County, I implore you: Let this one official’s bad decisions be the last.
My hope is no one ever gets a knock on the door telling them they lost a love one because an officer made an unforgivable decision. By some divine grace, it seems Hewett was lucky it never happened to him.