The check really was in the mail — it was just sent to the wrong address.
On Tuesday, Ontario Police Chief Mark Alexander sent out a news release hoping to shame a Buhl man who promised to repay an Ontario police officer who paid the man’s gasoline bill, which helped his stranded family get home. Alexander said he took action because the man’s promised repayment hadn’t arrived four weeks later.
But a few hours later, the chief sent an email to media reporting that “a check had been sent for $60, but an incorrect address was given.” Alexander said he talked to the Buhl man Tuesday and the officer has been reimbursed.
Alexander’s initial release to the media, sent at about 1 p.m., used the names of the man and his business. The Statesman did not include those names in its report. The chief’s follow-up note went out to media at 4:49 p.m.
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The 32-year-old man reportedly was returning from Washington state Aug. 23 after buying a pickup for his Buhl business. He stopped in Ontario for gas and after filling up tried to use his credit card, which was declined through a security measure implemented by his card issuer to help reduce fraud, police said.
It was late at night, about 12:30 a.m., and the man wasn’t able to contact his bank then to remove the hold.
The gas station owner was unwilling to let the man return home and send a check for the gasoline. He wanted the man to spend the night on the premises and make good on the transaction the next day.
At some point police were called and the officer tried to mediate the dispute, to no avail. He saw the man’s children, who had traveled with the man’s wife in a separate vehicle, were “restless and antsy” and he wanted to help out the family.
So he paid $63.42 for the gas himself, with the man promising to send him a check when he got home to Buhl, 173 miles southeast on Interstate 84 from Ontario.
The officer, who Alexander didn’t identify because he said the officer didn’t pay for the gasoline to get public recognition, called the man several times in the past month to ask for his money. At first, he was promised his money. Later, the man quit answering his phone. Alexander decided to go public.