The 21-year-old waitress convicted of serving drinks to a teenager who later died in an automobile crash should not shoulder the responsibility alone, a juror in the case told The World-Herald.
That juror has a point.
As is often the case with drivers who’ve been drinking, a number of people could have intervened and perhaps prevented the tragic loss of life.
According to testimony at the trial, a group of off-duty Fremont police officers saw enough to walk young Jacob Dickmeyer, 18, of Valley, to the passenger seat of a car, thinking it unwise for him to drive.
Put aside for a moment that one of the officers said someone in their group had bought the young man a beer. They might have assumed the Waterloo bar where they all drank that night wasn’t serving a minor.
But look at what else happened.
At the end of a December 2012 night out, at least two of the officers walked Dickmeyer to a vehicle, helped him into the passenger seat and kept walking when one saw him slide over into the driver’s seat. One even offered him a ride home.
Dickmeyer clearly should have been stopped then. Instead, the young driver pulled onto the road, a threat to himself and any number of others.
The officers were out of their jurisdiction, true. But they certainly were capable of keeping him from driving until local authorities arrived. They could have called 911 if the kid drove off. Keeping someone from driving drunk or impaired is a responsible act for any citizen.
And they clearly knew to alert authorities when they saw Dickmeyer driving erratically. That’s when one of them called 911.
It is fair for waitress Amanda Heiman’s defense lawyer to question whether justice has been done if accountability stops with her, along with a convenience store clerk and a 26-year-old friend of Dickmeyer’s. The lawyer pointed out how many others had purchased alcohol that weekend for Dickmeyer, whose blood-alcohol content measured 0.24, three times the legal limit for those 21 and older.
Heiman’s actions brought a felony conviction, based on evidence suggesting she knew Dickmeyer was underage and served him anyway. The other two faced alcohol-related misdemeanors.
But the juror said he thought everyone who provided alcohol for Dickmeyer, including at least one of the officers who bought a round, should have been in court alongside the waitress.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine says the first he’d heard about the role of the officers was at the trial. So Kleine is right to pursue further investigation.
In this case, an 18-year-old was killed and another young man was injured in a crash that perhaps could have been prevented.
What if this car had crossed into oncoming traffic? How many more deaths and injuries might have resulted?
Keeping the keys out of the hands of would-be drunk drivers is a shared responsibility.
“There were so many people who could have intervened who didn’t,” the juror said.
One needn’t be a bartender, a waitress or a cop to call a cab, provide a ride home or take other steps to keep would-be drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel.