A local sheriff’s office and the entire region are mourning the loss of a local investigator.
William “Frank” Dodson dedicated more than 30 years serving and protecting the community as a Columbia County deputy.
He was off duty riding his Harley Davidson in Thomson, GA on Thursday night. Another car stopped initially, but then continued driving across the intersection despite Dodson’s Harley having the right of way. Dodson could not stop in time and his bike ran into the car. Medics took Dodson to the hospital, but it was too late. He died after the crash.
On Friday, NewsChannel 6’s Ashley Osborne spent the day talking to the agencies involved in the search for the hit-and-run suspect.
The Georgia State Patrol is leading the investigation. They tell us, the driver of the Ford Fusion was a 16-year-old Thomson girl and she had a passenger in the car. Investigators say the driver fled the scene, came back and then left a second time.
“The driver fled the scene of the vehicle and did come back to the scene, stayed in the area for just a short time and then did flee the scene again and didn’t come back after that,” says Cpl. Dustin Stone with Georgia State Patrol.
Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle says the narrative that the video shows is unacceptable.
“I understand somebody panicking, even though it’s still not the right thing to do, to panic and leave the scene, but if you’re involved in a scene and you return back to a scene to survey it and then you leave and flee the scene. I have a problem with that,” Sheriff Whittle says.
A massive search for the driver took place after the accident as dozens of law enforcement agents from across the region sought justice for their brother by trade.
“We’re family. I mean that’s the bottom line,” says Sheriff Clay Whittle. “We could sit here for hours and talk about Frank.”
Sheriff Whittle says they lost a brother on Thursday night.
“He’s an exceptional investigator. Frank’s one of those types that you don’t want on you. If you’ve committed a crime—Frank’s gon get ya,” Whittle says about his friend of more than 30 years. “He’s the type of person that people appreciate because he Sheriff is so determined. Frank doesn’t look at a clock. If anybody else needed help, he provided that help.”
Whittle says Frank loved riding his Harley, which is what he was doing the night he died. Now, investigators are interviewing all the parties involved and gathering evidence before the District Attorney announced charges.
“We are consulting with the District Attorney’s office and they will make the determination on which charges and at what severity those charges will be at the completion of the investigation,” says Cpl. Stone.
Because the driver of the sedan is 16-years old she could be tried as a juvenile or as an adult; however, that is still undecided. Her identity is being withheld in compliance with juvenile protection laws.
Sheriff Whittle says he is confident the investigation will end in justice for his fellow deputy and longtime friend.
“They’ll take care of the appropriate charges, hopefully not only for the driver, but for the other people that were involved in it—who knew it and did nothing to help us solve that case,” Whittle says sternly.
The sheriff tells NewsChannel 6, those who knew Frank best called him “Pickens.” His thick southern drawl and his hometown of Pickens, South Carolina landed him the nickname. The small town is in the South Carolina foothills, which is logging territory.
Sheriff Whittle says even through devastating sadness, he and the other deputies had to smile when they saw Frank was wearing his logging boots while riding his Harley for the last time.