Garden City hit-and-run driver sent to jail

Alan Beavers is still recovering from injuries sustained when John French's pickup hit him in Garden City.

jsowell@idahostatesman.comDecember 14, 2013 

JohnTaylorFrench.JPG

John Taylor French

Alan Beavers spent a month in a coma after he was struck in a crosswalk while crossing Chinden Boulevard on Aug. 24.

After the 24-year-old came to, he didn't remember anything about the incident, his parents, Monty and Anita Beavers, said Friday.

"He would ask about a snowboarding accident or whether he had been in an airplane accident," Monty Beavers said.

His parents would explain that he was hit by an automobile. The next day, Beavers would forget and they'd go over it again.

Beavers' 33 injuries included multiple serious injuries to his head and face. He had broken ribs, a broken leg and a broken wrist.

He had already slipped into the coma and experienced severe blood loss by the time emergency crews reached the scene at Chinden's intersection with Maple Grove Road in Garden City. Later, doctors would remove 154 staples used to close off wounds.

Beavers has already received nearly $500,000 in medical care. The bills will continue to climb as he continues his rehabilitation at his parents' home in Nampa.

"In the evenings, he still gets really tired," Anita Beavers said, though she noted his short-term memory is improving.

The driver of the pickup, John Taylor French, told Beavers' parents he was sorry on Friday before he was sentenced to a year in jail.

"The bottom line is that there's no excuse for what I did," said French, 20. "I made poor choices and I wasn't mature enough, man enough to own up to my actions. I am deeply sorry. I am ashamed of what I did."

Fourth District Judge Patrick Owen withheld judgment on two felonies - leaving the scene of an accident and destruction or alteration of evidence - and sentenced French to six months in jail for misdemeanor reckless driving. Another six months will be served as part of French's 10 years of probation.

"I know you didn't mean to do this," Owen told French. "But you were careless, you were reckless and you need to pay a penalty for that."

Beavers had walked more than 50 feet north across Chinden Boulevard when he was struck by French, who ran a red light. French said he was looking down at his phone to change the music when he struck Beavers.

Based on an estimated speed of about 50 mph, French would have driven his pickup 1,200 feet from the time the traffic light turned yellow until he struck Beavers, Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Jon Medema said.

French pulled over in a nearby convenience store's parking lot, but did not go back to offer assistance. He swapped out his damaged hood for another one and replaced a headlight left at the scene to conceal his involvement. A grainy video from the convenience store allowed investigators to identify the model of Toyota pickup and narrow down the year of manufacture.

Police then identified the owners of every pickup in the Boise area that matched the profile and went to each address until they found French's truck.

"I just can't imagine how anyone could have survived that kind of impact," Owen said, noting that one neighbor believed French's pickup had struck another vehicle when she heard the crash.

French has been in the Ada County Jail since he was arrested three days after the incident. Owen told French he would consider revoking the withheld judgments and sentence him to up to 10 years in prison if he causes trouble either in the jail or on probation.

Owen said he received letters of support from both French's family and friends and those of Alan Beavers. He said he was impressed by both sets of letters and told French he and Beavers were both good men who were a lot alike.

"You had your whole lives in front of you. You continue to have that. He doesn't," the judge told French.

Owen noted that a presentence report showed French hadn't been in trouble and said he was at low risk to reoffend.

"I would like to put Mr. Beavers back together again. But I can't. I don't have that in my bag of tricks," Owen said glumly.

Outside court, Beavers' parents said the case has been hard on everyone.

"We've said prayers for (French's) family," Monty Beavers said.

The Beaverses were touched Thursday when a group of eight Garden City police officers brought Alan Beavers an Xbox 360 after hearing he was a big gamer.

"They said they wanted to bless one of the victims they had encountered during the year," Anita Beavers said. "We appreciated that very much. It was nice of them to remember us."

Monty Beavers, a letter carrier in Caldwell, said it makes him mad when he sees drivers texting or looking down at their phones instead of focusing on the road.

"The lesson is to pay attention when you're driving," Medema said. "And if you get into a collision it will be a lot easier for you if you stop and render aid."

John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

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