Man takes plea deal for running over Hood to Coast runners
A man who stole a Honey Bucket truck while drunk and ran over race participants during a 2017 Hood to Coast race is getting a "second chance at life" thanks to his victims.
David Jon Blackmon, who pleaded guilty to DUII, recklessly endangering another person and fourth-degree assault, was sentenced Wednesday, Feb. 20, in Columbia County Circuit Court to 60 days in jail, with eligibility for work release, five years of probation and $16,040 in restitution payments to four people.
Blackmon was arrested in the early morning hours Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 after he stole a truck parked near a Hood to Coast race exchange area and drove it through a field in Birkenfeld, where Candace Garrett, Roger Courtain, Melissa Bishop and Cynthia Gillespie had just settled in to their sleeping bags to try to get a few hours of rest. During the drunken joyride, Blackmon ran over Gillespie, dragging her several feet as she lay in her sleeping bag.
At the time, Gillespie, a Canby resident, was a veteran runner. She joined her friends that year for what marked her 20th time participating in HTC.
"We'd just arrived at exchange 24 at 1 a.m.," Gillespie recalled Wednesday, sitting beside Columbia Circuit Judge Ted E. Grove, facing Blackmon and his attorney. "We were all thankful that we had arrived with enough time to give us four hours of rest."
Not long after she closed her eyes, she awoke to what she and her race teammates described as terror and pandemonium.
"I sat up and saw the headlights heading right for us and knew there was no escape," Gillespie said. "I got down on the ground as flat as I could and prayed for the truck to miss me. ... As the truck drove on top of me ... my sleeping bag hooked on the truck and dragged me."
The truck finally came to a stop, but Gillespie remained pinned underneath, her left thigh trapped under the truck's tire. She recounted screaming for help with the weight of the service truck crushing her leg.
As medics and nearby friends raced to Gillespie's aid to try to get the service truck off her, Blackmon fled the scene, but was tracked down a few hours later and arrested. Gillespie was taken to Vernonia before being transported to Oregon Health and Science University hospital.
While Gillespie was recuperating in the hospital, a Columbia County Sheriff's deputy called to check in and let her know that Blackmon had already posted bail.
"I was in disbelief that he was released before I was," she noted.
Some of the defendant's charges were dropped after a plea deal and sentencing Wednesday.
A few months before the 2017 incident, Blackmon had been arrested for DUII in Deschutes County.
Columbia County Deputy District Attorney Kim Silverman noted Blackmon's sentencing was driven largely by the victims, who indicated they hoped to see Blackmon monitored heavily, but were willing to give the man a chance to straighten out his life and stop drinking.
"We're arriving at a resolution that I wouldn't normally do," Silverman noted. "What Mrs. Gillespie is hoping for is public safety monitoring and hopefully a sense of redemption from Mr. Blackmon."
Last year, Blackmon met with Gillespie to personally apologize to her, his attorney noted.
Silverman said later that Blackmon was able to reduce his jail time by paying roughly $10,000 in restitution up front to cover Gillespie's mounting medical and therapy bills. Because she was injured by a stolen vehicle, insurance has not covered her costs, Silverman noted.
"He still has the potential for prison time hanging over his head," Silverman explained Thursday, noting Blackmon will be on probation for years and be required to wear an alcohol detection device, as well as abstain from all intoxicants while on probation for five years.
Facing Gillespie and other runners who were involved in the 2017 incident, Blackmon addressed the courtroom Wednesday.
"I'm grateful to everyone who has shown me a measure of grace," Blackmon told his victims. "I heard you loud and clear and I apologize."
Blackmon is scheduled to report to jail on March 1.
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