Murder and the Logging Truck

This story by Joe Johnson, my absolute favorite crime reporter in the state, has all the elements of a classic Georgia crime: entitled masculinity, guns, probably meth (certainly meth), low-wage dangerous jobs, poor marksmanship on the part of police, and “feticide”. Long story short, boyfriend goes nuts, barricades himself inside the house, cops surround it, somehow he gets out, leads them on chase, shoots and mortally wounds his pregnant girlfriend, then throws her out of the car. Just another summer day in Georgia. But then it gets weird:

[Ryan Edgar] Arnold climbed onto a tractor with a scoped high-powered rifle, possibly contemplating making a stand, according to Oglethorpe County Sheriff Mike Smith. Instead, he commandeered the logging truck and at gunpoint forced the driver to drive.

When the driver refused to crash the truck through a police roadblock on a dirt access road at the logging site, Arnold reportedly shot him and took control of the big rig, ramming it into four police cars. Oglethorpe County deputies and a Georgia State Patrol trooper fired upon the truck, injuring and incapacitating Arnold.

You can hear the chase music now. But if they’d only shot Arnold, we’d say a few words of compassion to the family of Haley Hill, whose picture makes her look like too nice a person to date a guy with a dumbass fake teardrop tattoo, and move on. Dramatic in the sense of pulse-pounding action, but not especially literary, just sad. But wait, there’s more:

Mike Ayers, special agent in charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Athens regional office, said it was unclear if the driver, identified as 58-year-old Paul Donald Davis of Madison County, was also struck by law enforcement gunfire. Davis’ injuries did not appear to be life threatening, officials said. The trucker reportedly was shot five times.

Agents spent Tuesday at the scene to use bullet trajectories and other means to determine how Davis was shot.

“He could have been shot by Arnold, he could have been shot by law enforcement, or it could have been a combination of both,” Ayers said. “Whatever it is, it’s important to note that this was a lethal situation with involving a suspect in a tractor trailer.”

Oh, wait, hang on: they managed to shoot the poor driver five times? Or really, at least four, since Davis’ son claims one of the shots came from Arnold? Holy cow. Yes, it’s a lethal situation, which is a really good reason not to shoot up the cab of the truck and hit the driver. These clowns don’t even know who shot whom. We can all hear the careful cover-up being stitched together right now, where Arnold, an obvious and unredeemable villain, gets tagged with shooting Davis, which he may have done once but is going to get the rest of the blame for because lord forbid we would hold a rural deputy responsible for blazing away at a moving truck with a hostage inside. Let’s wish Mr. Davis a full recovery and a generous settlement, and fervently hope that the ballistics report doesn’t get doctored.

But Davis’ presence and outcome transform this from the banality of evil to something around which a work of fiction could be constructed. The story has to be told from the POV of our version of the truck driver. Here he is, working his crappy job, moving heavy loads at high speeds on poorly-maintained roads for maybe $15/hr. He’s stressed about bills, about his girlfriend who might be pregnant… or better yet, he’s stressed about something stupid, like his fantasy football team or something bitchy somebody said to him. He’s feeling powerless, frustrated—and then some asshole with a teardrop tattoo, the meth shakes and a high-powered rifle hijacks his truck and makes him run from the cops. He stands up to the guy, and refuses to run the blockade. Vindicated: he has some measure of control back over his life. And then the cops light him up. What are his thoughts in his hospital bed?

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