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Making Do With Less In Moosic

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Moosic police say that in the moments before a vehicle slammed into Jared Coleman in the middle of a busy June 29 afternoon on Birney Avenue, the 23-year-old Moosic man was picking up cigarette butts along the road and trying to jump on cars.

Yet dispatchers received no 911 calls, Moosic police say.

Daryl Bennett, 40, a Scranton woman on her way to work at a Wilkes-Barre hospital crashed into Coleman, who died the next day. Moosic police officer James Giehl said he did not ask Bennett to perform a field sobriety test. No breathalyzer or blood test, either, because she showed no sign of drinking and said she was not using any prescription medication.

Still, no proof exists that she was telling the truth even if she was.

Witnesses told police they saw Coleman walking in the right lane of the busy highway before he stepped into the left lane as Bennett tried to miss him and go around, Giehl said this morning in a telephone interview. Other drivers tried to miss Coleman as well, Giehl said.

Bennett was “hysterical” after the accident, Giehl said, and after a 30 minute interview her husband arrived at the scene and took her home. Police impounded the car for a few days to see if any kind of recording device might have captured the accident. But no such device exists on the car, Giehl said.

“Others were honking and beeping at him,” Giehl said. “We didn’t know what the story was with him.”

Police interviewed Coleman’s mother and father, with whom he lived, Giehl said. They provided answers to questions police had about his “mental state” and psychological condition, Giehl said.

“We got the answers we were looking for,” Giehl said, although he declined to share those answers.

Police now believe they know Coleman’s story and closed the case on July 2, ruling it a case of accidental death after deciding not to file charges against Bennett.

Coleman’s family secured the services of an attorney who sent a private investigator to interview Moosic police and others, Giehl said.

I will have to file an open records request to see what documents, if any, I will be allowed to review. Giehl said the borough manager will decide what to release and what not to release.  Witness statements, the results of interviews with Coleman’s parents and other information are included in the official report, Giehl said, and a determination will be made as to what is considered public.

Frankly, I expect official resistance. And that is part of an ongoing erosion of the public trust and what I believe to be an increasing distrust of police and other public safety officials.

When I called Moosic police yesterday I spoke with Chief Charles Maurer, who told me he would likely not release the report to me because “you’re not involved.”

I explained that I’ve been involved for about 40 years in trying to inform the public about life and death matters that shape our community and that I will continue to be involved.

“We're not covering anything up,” the police chief said.

I told him that I didn’t say he was.

“That’s what you’re insinuating,” he said.

No, that was not what I was insinuating. I was simply asking for facts about a young man who died after being crushed by a moving vehicle on a bright afternoon in the borough where Maurer is paid to protect and serve.

And now I’m asking for more information about what put this same young man in harm’s way, and whether his “mental state” might have had anything to do with it. I’m asking for facts about the life and times of a man who Moosic police are “insinuating” suffered from a “mental state” that might have contributed to his death – a mental state that more and more young people encounter as community programs and professional help disappears and government officials slash crucial mental health funding.

I, too, am asking for help.

I’m asking that a great society that once took seriously our duty to help our most vulnerable citizens quickly reconsiders the outcome of so-called austerity programs that force already troubled people to make do with less.

The Coleman family understands this public policy all too well.

They are making do with less, all right.

They are making do with one less family member.

Tags :  
People : Charles MaurerDale BennettJames Giehl

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