Sullivan County property assessor not charged for what was originally reported as a hit-and-run

BRISTOL, TN (WJHL) – Sullivan County Property Assessor Ron Hillman reportedly damaged someone else’s property when he backed his truck into another vehicle last month at a Walgreens in Bristol, Tennessee. A patrol officer says Hillman did not report it to police until the police department went public with its search for the then unidentified hit-and-run suspect. However, more than a week after the incident, Bristol police have opted against charging Hillman, saying the man “truly believed there was no damage to either vehicle.”

“We believe there was no intent on the driver’s part to leave the scene of an accident with damage and without that criminal intent there’s really no violation,” BTPD Patrol Officer Travis Womer said.

According to video obtained by News Channel 11, a Walgreens surveillance camera filmed a white truck back into an unoccupied parked red truck around 5:30 pm on May 25. Womer says what you don’t see in the grainy video is that someone witnessed the driver get out, take a look and then drive away. The other owner, who was left wondering who hit his truck, reported a hit-and-run to police.

Six days later, a post appeared on the City of Bristol’s Facebook page, asking for the public’s help tracking down the unidentified hit-and-a-run suspect. That same day, Womer says Hillman, a man we know as the Sullivan County Property Assessor (based on his address and birth date on file with the Sullivan County Election Commission and listed in the police report) called the police department and admitted his involvement. Womer says he did not know Hillman was the property assessor until we started asking questions this week. Regardless, after a phone conversation with the man the officer says he was convinced this was nothing more than an honest accident.

“(Hillman) stated that he was at the Walgreens’ parking lot on that date and he was backing up out of a parking spot,” Womer said. “He felt his vehicle bump another, he got out and looked. He believed that there was no damage to either vehicle. He said both vehicles had trailer hitches. He believed both trailer hitches had bumped into each other and there wasn’t any damage to that vehicle and that’s why he decided to leave without notifying anyone.”

According to a police report, there was minor damage, but Womer said you have to look closely to see the scratches.

“A cursory examination did not reveal any obvious damage and I believed him that he could have looked at it quickly and not seen any damage,” Womer said.

With that, police closed their investigation and decided not to charge Hillman.

“I do not believe Mr. Hillman had the intent to leave the scene of an accident and thus I did not charge him,” Womer said in his report.

We’ve made multiple attempts to try and talk to the property assessor about this situation over the last two days. We’ve stopped by his office two days in a row and left our contact information with his employees both times. We’ve also called him on his office line multiple times as well as his cell phone. In addition, we’ve called his home phone number and emailed him. He has yet to return our phone calls or email, but we did find his truck in the parking lot of the Sullivan County Courthouse. Police say it doesn’t matter who drove that truck the day of the incident. Womer says officers treated Hillman just like anyone else.

“Had this been any other driver, would the outcome have been different?” we asked.

“No sir,” Womer said. “It absolutely would have been the exact same no matter who the driver was.”

With the police department’s investigation now over, it appears insurance agents may now need to sort out the situation. Police closed their investigation on June 1, according to the report. However, as of this morning, Womer told us he still had not called the other driver to report his findings. Womer told us today he intends to call the man and let him know the investigation is closed. We’ve tried to reach the other driver with no luck so far.

Copyright WJHL 2016. All rights reserved.

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