New police chief says team effort helped capture suspect - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

New police chief says team effort helped capture suspect

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The vehicle the mother and her child were in at the time of the crash. The vehicle the mother and her child were in at the time of the crash.
Audubon Park Police Chief Doug Sweeney Audubon Park Police Chief Doug Sweeney
David Potter (Source: LMDC) David Potter (Source: LMDC)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A veteran Louisville Metro Police Department officer may have felt as if he were back directing traffic only minutes after being sworn in as Audubon Park's new police chief.

Audubon Park Police Chief Doug Sweeney realized that some drivers already were rendering aid when he and his wife Annette pulled up on Shawnna Hopper's rear-ended Chevy Impala on the Gene Snyder Freeway eastbound at Interstate 65 Tuesday night.

"As I got out I could smell gasoline," Chief Sweeney said. "She (Hopper) was unconscious and her little boy was obviously - I could tell by the way he was positioned that there was damage to his right leg."

Sweeney had been sworn in as Audubon Park's Chief about an hour earlier, but after retiring as a Lieutenant in LMPD's traffic division he had plenty of experience working wrecks.

"I was worried about moving her (Hopper's) head, but I was able to pull her out," he said.

Chief Sweeney said another law officer and a civilian helped him pull the little boy to safety. The child was taken to Kosair Children's Hospital where he underwent surgery Wednesday afternoon.

Investigators said another driver took it upon himself to pursue the driver who hit Hopper.

"That guy was awesome," Annette Sweeney wrote on her Facebook page. "He followed the truck, the driver called someone to come get him. The bystander follows that car and led police to him! That guy deserves an award!"

Louisville Metro police arrested the driver, 57-year-old David K. Potter, near the National Turnpike.

Potter was charged with driving under the influence and leaving the scene while failing to render aid. His arrest report listed his blood alcohol content at .133, more than one-and-a-half times Kentucky's legal limit.

Potter is the father of the late Darrin Potter, a former Louisville police officer killed in Iraq in 2003 while serving with the Kentucky National Guard. Records show David Potter posted $1,000 bond Wednesday afternoon. 

Sweeney joined the Audubon Park force last October, after retiring from LMPD in July. He became Interim Chief after Jeffrey Cox resigned amid allegations of discrimination and harassment within the department. Sweeney became the permanent replacement earlier this month.

Sweeney's new boss was quick to praise his efforts.

"As if I should be surprised. This is the sort of thing Doug does," Audubon Park Mayor Dorn Crawford said. "The first time I ran into him, he was trying to take care of a tree limb so it wouldn't fall on somebody's car. That's who he is."

Tuesday's incident report listed Louisville Metro Corrections Officer Brett Rehm and Okolona resident Larry Skaggs as providing assistance in the investigation.

Chief Sweeney believes the community response sends a message about responsibility.

"It's doing what anybody would do," Chief Sweeney said. "When there's a wreck, people help. I guess you don't think about it."

Copyright 2014 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.

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