SHIAWASSEE TWP. — Residents along East Hibbard Road, west of M-71, say a red Hummer H3 — registered to Shiawassee County Board Chairman Jeremy Root — drove through a ditch and yard, and then struck a mailbox and a railroad crossing sign early Friday morning.
The vehicle, which apparently was abandoned at the scene by whoever was driving, traveled through a ditch for approximately 100 yards before getting stuck near a home just west of the railroad crossing. The vehicle sustained damage to the driver’s side fender and front end in the crash.
When called for comment Monday morning, Root, a Republican representing District 5, would not say whether he was driving his vehicle at the time of the incident.
“I’m not going to comment until I receive the police report,” he said.
Sheriff Brian BeGole, witnesses say, responded to the scene after MSP tagged the vehicle. An email to BeGole seeking comment and a copy of any police report was not answered before press time.
Michigan State Police Lt. Dave Kaiser said Wednesday via email that Root’s vehicle was tagged for tow by the trooper who discovered it, and no additional report was filed. The trooper who discovered the vehicle did not state over the radio whether the owner or driver was at the scene.
Allstar Towing removed the vehicle early Friday, witnesses say.
The resident whose mailbox was destroyed said he wasn’t told of the crash before he awoke Friday to see the destruction. The man, whom The Argus-Press is not identifying, stated Sunday he still “had no idea” who caused the damage.
“I just woke up Friday morning and my mailbox was laying in my driveway,” the homeowner said. “No one has told me anything, and no police have come here to ask me what happened. The railroad sign was replaced the same day, though.”
According to police scanner archives available online via Broadcastify.com, an unoccupied red Hummer H3 was found in the ditch at approximately 5:20 a.m. Friday. Scanner traffic ceased for nearly 40 minutes after the Hummer was reported to Central Dispatch. Eventually, Central Dispatch confirmed the Hummer with the same license plate as called in was registered to Root.
“Central 3536, can you copy a plate for me,” the unidentified MSP trooper at the scene said, reading the license plate. “Does it come back to a Hummer?”
“It comes back on an ’07 Hummer H3 to a Jeremy Root out of Byron,” an unidentified dispatcher replied, shortly before 6 a.m.
The trooper told dispatch he did not see any damage to the vehicle in the pre-dawn darkness. About 10 minutes later, the trooper informed Central Dispatch he had tagged the vehicle for towing/removal and left the scene.
Larry Hozak, who lives on the opposite side of Hibbard Road from the scene of the crash, said he was awake Friday and heard a commotion. He went outside to see what had happened.
Hozak said when he went outside shortly before 7 a.m. and looked across Hibbard Road, he saw a red Hummer H3 being pulled out of the ditch by an Allstar Towing flatbed truck. He took photos of the Hummer being loaded onto the back of the truck and provided them to The Argus-Press.
“The (tow truck) driver didn’t look too happy with me when I was taking pictures,” Hozak said. “But I guess he’ll have to get over it.”
Hozak said he spoke with BeGole, who was at the scene with his Dodge pickup truck. Hozak said no other police cars or units were at the scene when he went outside.
“The driver tore that railroad crossing sign right down,” Hozak said, pointing toward a new sign. “He flattened it. This one is a brand-new one. They put that one in the very same day. It sheared that sign off, got the guy’s mailbox, and you can see where he plowed into the bank.”
Another witness who drove by the scene at about 6:30 a.m. Friday also stated he saw BeGole, but no other police cars.
“I just drove by it on my way to Baker,” Alex Bauer said via Facebook message, adding he recognized BeGole’s Dodge pickup.
Hozak recovered the fender from the red H3, and left it in his front yard near Hibbard Road. It has since been picked up, but Hozak doesn’t know who did so.
In addition to the fender, a turn signal light housing and a pair of eyeglasses were still in the ditch on the south side of Hibbard Road Sunday afternoon.
Additionally, Hozak provided photos he took of the Hummer, along with the license plate number, which match that of Root’s vehicle reported by the trooper.
Hozak said he saw liquor and beer bottles in the ditch where the vehicle had been. There’s no indication the bottles were Root’s and it’s unknown whether they were recently left there or old.
“I told that to the sheriff (about the bottles),” Hozak said. “His one comment was that ‘It’s like that all over the county.’”
The Argus-Press has submitted Freedom of Information Act Requests to county officials for phone records and text messages from/between any department-issued cellphones from BeGole, Root and any dispatcher(s) on duty Friday morning, as well as a copy of any police report, and any record of 911 calls placed to Central Dispatch regarding the incident.
This is the second incident in which Root has been involved for which police have been called recently.
At about 2:45 a.m. Feb. 22 in Owosso, according to a report from Owosso police, officers responded to McDonald’s for a possible fight. Upon arriving at the scene, officers found Root and a female, both of whom said no fight had taken place, but claimed there was a “heated discussion.”
Root admitted he had consumed alcohol earlier and “made it clear he was a county commissioner” before he called for a ride home, and the female walked to her residence. In dashcam footage of the incident, Root can be heard admitting to driving his vehicle before the incident, but he was not given a breathalyzer.