By Kelly Cordingley
How It Feels returns to tell the first person stories of KU students who have had incredible experiences. This is the final installment of our spring series. Thanks for reading!
Six years ago, Sam Jones, a 2014 alumni, was arrested for a fatal hit-and-run he didn’t commit. This is what it felt like.
I was pulled from my jeep, handcuffed, thrown in a cop car and told I was going away for a long time. I had no idea what I’d done or what to say, or if I should say anything at all.
It was 11 a.m., and I was heading to my house from campus to make a sandwich and take a nap before track practice. The cops didn’t tell me what I’d done. They told me they had been looking for my car, and that “it matched.” They put me in a dimly lit room with my hands cuffed behind my back.
Two cops came in the door, like something out of NCIS or Criminal Minds, and told me, “We know what happened, we just need your confession.”
I panicked. Confession of what? What do they know? What did I do?
They told me I hit a teenage girl and killed her three weeks ago. They told me the dent in my jeep was consistent with hitting a body. They told me my car would test for her blood if I didn’t just confess.
I told them the dent in my jeep was from hitting a fire hydrant. They told me I was wrong. There was no good cop, bad cop game going. They were certain I’d done it. They told me to think back to the date, that maybe I’d been drinking and didn’t remember. Maybe I’d been high and didn’t realize I’d hit someone.
They got in my head. Maybe I’d been drinking and driving. I couldn’t remember what I did three weeks ago. I might have been out with friends. I might have been drinking.
I was told I was going to prison for a minimum of 15 years. I was a scared kid who had no explanation for what the police were saying. I wracked my mind for an explanation, like maybe I’d loaned my car to my roommates. That wouldn’t have been uncommon for me.
Six hours later I still hadn’t confessed. I called my track coach and told him I wouldn’t be at practice because I was sitting in jail for a hit and run I didn’t commit. I think he purposely didn’t ask questions, but he was pissed.
Since I wouldn’t tell the cop what happened that night, they brought in an old woman to verify that I was the driver of the car that killed that girl. She looked at the cops and told them I looked nothing like the young man who was driving that night.
They let me leave immediately after, but I was shaken and pretty freaked out. Without an apology, they just told me I could leave. They had me believing I might have done it. They had me questioning my own sanity. I saw first-hand how easy it is for cops to coerce you into saying something happened that really didn’t.