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An Ordinary Guy – an Extraordinary Decision

As Clint Arndt examined the Chevy Astro van, he knew almost instantly that it hadn’t hit a deer – though that’s what the driver claimed. Arndt’s years of experience (32 to be exact) and the fact that he repairs 10 to 15 deer hits a month at Wentworth Buick in Eugene, Ore., told Arndt that something was wrong … that someone had placed deer hair into the vehicle’s headlight area to make it look like the van hit a deer.

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But if the van hadn’t hit a deer, what had it hit?

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Or who? Arndt couldn’t help but think about the news reports he’d heard about a local 12-year-old girl named Katie Lovelace who’d been killed in a hit-and-run over the weekend. The shop had even received a fax from local authorities, asking repairers to be on the lookout for a dark-colored sedan. This van was white. But because it was the company van for a local beverage distributor, it had a big picture of two Corona beers on its side – which could, possibly, make the van look dark, especially since the accident occurred at night.

But Arndt wasn’t sure. He knew this wasn’t a deer hit, but how could he be sure this van had killed Katie? Plus, this beverage distributor was a consistent customer of the shop, and Arndt didn’t want to unjustly accuse someone at their company. On the other hand, Arndt kind of wanted this to be the van – so the Lovelace family would know who was responsible for the death of their child. Arndt knew the Lovelace’s needed closure.

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He knew this because he, too, had buried a child. His daughter, Tori.

Tori had been killed in a carjacking when a 15-year-old approached her car and ordered her to get out. When she didn’t immediately comply, he shot her in the head.

Arndt knew what the Lovelaces were going through. He knew that empty feeling. So he went home and confided in his wife. Should he call the police? She left it up to him.

Wednesday morning, two days after first examining the van, Arndt called the police from his home. By 6:30 a.m., Arndt was at work. By 8 a.m., the officers arrived.

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Because police had found pieces of a headlight lying along the road at the scene of the accident, it didn’t take long to match those pieces to the Astro’s damaged headlight. Without a doubt, this was the van that killed Katie Lovelace.

Delivery driver Lee Russell Stubbs was later arrested – and convicted – for the crime.

Police credit Arndt for Stubbs’ arrest, and the Lovelace’s credit Arndt for helping them find closure. But the collision repair community should also credit Arndt. The crucial role he played in this case helps dispel stereotypes that have haunted repairers for decades: that they’re dishonest, uneducated and unfit for employment elsewhere. Arndt proved to the authorities investigating this case, to his community, to the Lovelace family – and especially to Lee Russell Stubbs – that repairers are skilled professionals.

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Though Arndt’s story – “A Reluctant Informer and the Hardest Hit,” – is a classic example of an ordinary guy doing an extraordinary thing and becoming a hero, the situation he faced isn’t unique. On average, a pedestrian is killed in a traffic accident every 107 minutes. Many of these accidents are hit-and-runs. And many of the vehicles involved in these accidents end up in repair shops across the country. Maybe even in yours.

Collision repair is a serious business. Even if you never help police catch someone who’s taken a life, don’t underestimate the importance of what you do. The repairs you perform on a daily basis help preserve lives. And for that, you, too, deserve the title of hero.

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