Pike County Times
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BREAKING NEWS: Rickerson Case Will Not Be Prosecuted
* Update in Blue at the Bottom of This Article *
By Editor Becky Watts

ZEBULON - Deputies from the Pike County Sheriff’s Office responded to a one vehicle accident on Highway 109 East near McCard Lake Road on October 10, 2017 around 4:54 p.m. The driver of the vehicle, Rebecca Buchanan age 35 from Barnesville, suffered serious injuries and was airlifted to Atlanta. 56 year old Rick Rickerson saw and responded on the scene of the accident. He was arrested for obstruction by a Georgia State Patrol Officer after Ms. Buchanan was taken to Grady Hospital for treatment.

The office of the District Attorney (DA) released a three page report on the incident today that outlined the case and advised that it will be dismissing the obstruction case against Rickerson. The entire case can be read through the link below, but here are the basic facts as outlined from the DA's report.

There is an update from 2.13.18 at the bottom of this article.

The Accident and Arrest

Rickerson was arrested on October 10, 2017 by Corporal Jeter of the Georgia State Patrol (GSP) and charged with obstruction of an officer. Cpl. Jeter came up on the accident shortly after it occurred as he was on his way home from work. Rickerson advised that he was behind the car and witnessed the accident and that he was a retired Battallion Chief with the Griffin Fire Department. Cpl. Jeter noted that Ms. Buchanan appeared to be in "very critical condition," called 911 and gave the status of the wreck, and then moved his vehicle in the eastbound lane behind Ms. Buchanan's car.

Cpl. Jeter heard emergency sirens approaching and began the process of clearing the scene to make room for emergency vehicles. He asked who owned the vehicle that he was parked behind and asked Rickerson to move his vehicle. The report says that two people were standing by the victim in her vehicle rendering aid and that Rickerson was standing behind them but not rendering aid himself. Cpl. Jeter asked Rickerson to move his vehicle and Rickerson advised that he was not going to move his vehicle at that time. Cpl. Jeter advised that he needed Rickerson to move his vehicle in order to make room for the arriving emergency vehicles, and Rickerson refused to move his vehicle again. Rickerson's vehicle was eventually moved by one of the bystanders on the scene.

After the victim had been loaded into the helicopter, Cpl. Jeter then asked Rickerson for his license so he could "retrieve his information as he was a witness to the accident." Cpl. Jeter told the DA's Office that Rickerson was belligerent during the conversation and made the statement, "If you're going to take me to jail, go ahead and take me. I need the money anyway."

Rickerson was arrested and charged with obstruction of an officer. The DA's Office noted the following in the report, "It should be noted that an open container of alcohol was located in Mr. Rickerson's truck, however, Cpl. Jeter did not issue Mr. Rickerson a citation for this."

The DA's Investigation

District Attorney Ben Coker noted that he is the DA for the entire four county circuit for Fayette, Spalding, Pike, and Upson Counties and that the DA's Office prosecutes both felonies and misdemeanor cases in Pike and Upson Counties while only prosecuting felonies in Fayette and Spalding Counties. He noted that while misdemeanor cases are investigated in Pike County, felony offenses "often receive priority due to the seriousness of the charges."

"Because this case was a misdemeanor, it had not yet been investigated by my office," Coker wrote. "After receiving multiple contacts from concerned citizens, I took it upon myself to begin an investigation into the matter involving Mr. Rickerson."

DA Coker reviewed Cpl. Jeter's report and the dash cam footage from the accident. He then spoke personally to all of those who were on the scene of the accident. Witnesses advised that they were all taking turns holding the accident victim until emergency services personnel could arrive and "gave varying accounts" of the interaction between Mr. Rickerson and Cpl. Jeter.

One witness saw Rickerson being belligerent and other did not, and it was noted that emotions were high on the scene. However, all of the witnesses agreed that Rickerson's actions helped save the life of the victim. The report notes that one witness said the following, "Well, he was belligerent with the trooper and he didn't move his vehicle, but I wouldn't find him guilty because he helped save this woman's life."

The report states that "This sentiment has echoed through the general public and social media outlets" and that the DA's Office has received "no less than 20 twenty calls and/or emails from citizens asking for the charges to be dismissed and criticizing our office for pursuing these charges (even though the decision to pursue the charges had not even been made)."

"Although the will of the public is always given due deference and does not fall on deaf ears, the ultimate inquiry must be, first, whether a law was broken, second, whether the State can obtain a conviction for the offense," DA Coker said.

He continued by saying, "To prosecute a case knowing that a conviction cannot be obtained is unethical and a waste of taxpayer money. Given the varying accounts by witnesses involved at the scene and the pre-trial publicity this case has already received, a fair and impartial jury would be unascertainable and a successful prosecution for the offense of obstruction of an officer would likewise be impossible."

He closed on the report by saying that "tensions, emotions, and adrenalin often run high" in a situation where a person's life is at stake and that escalating emotions were the reason that Rickerson ended up being arrested. He said that after reviewing the facts, circumstances, and evidence on the case, "the state cannot prevail in a prosecution of Mr. Rickerson for the offense of obstruction of an officer." Therefore, this case will be dismissed.

Closing

Pike County has requested the dash cam footage and is requesting any additional information on this case from the Georgia State Patrol. This article will be updated as that information is received.

Click here to read a copy of the investigation from the Office of the District Attorney.

The original article is entitled, "Wreck Sends One to Hospital and One to Jail."

Update 2.13.18

[Note from the Editor: Pike County Times requested and received a copy of the DPS Incident Report from the Georgia Department of Public Safety. original report was redacted, but I further redacted it by blacking out house addresses and phone numbers for all involved parties per Pike County Times' policy.]

This report is more in depth about the incident. It explains the reason that Sgt. Jeter did not ask for any type of test related to the alcohol found in the truck as well as a hospital visit before going to jail. It also mentions a phone call from Rickerson's son.

There is an addition on page three that discusses the witness statement and clarification from the witness in regard to Rickerson. I have included a note on the bottom of the page that clarifies a date error on the report. Click here to view this document.

[Note from the Editor: I have requested the dash cam footage and will upload an update based on that when I receive it.]


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