By Ed Brock
Clayton County police are reviewing a security videotape from The Home Depot for clues to the identity of the buyer of a dryer that was dropped on Interstate 75 and caused a fatal accident.
Michael Ronald Hall, 43, of Atlanta was killed after he swerved to avoid the dryer while he was driving home with his two sons at about 10 p.m. Monday. The two boys, 9-year-old Michael and 6-year-old Marcus, were in the back seat and survived the accident with minor injuries.
They were on their way home from a Little League game in McDonough.
Police found the dryer, which was new and still in its box, and used the shipping order on the appliance to trace it to Home Depot on Jonesboro Road just north of Forest Park near I-285.
The video acquired from the store shows a dark-colored Ford F-150 pickup truck driven by a Hispanic man with his young son. The man is believed to be the owner of the dryer, Clayton County Police Department Capt. Jeff Turner said.
"They took it to the truck, put it in the truck and left the parking lot," Turner said.
Because the man paid for the dryer in cash, the store records do not show his identity. Parts of the video were too dark for investigators to see if the man put up the tailgate of his truck or tied the dryer down, but Turner said no rope was found on the dryer at the scene of the accident.
The dryer likely fell off the truck shortly before the accident, Turner said, and just one minute before the accident a passerby called to report a large box in the roadway.
Turner said the driver of the truck should have made an effort to report the incident, but now, if he is found, he will be charged with reckless conduct as well as failure to secure a load. Had he called in he would likely have been charged only with failure to secure a load, Turner said.
Anyone with information on the driver of the truck is asked to call Clayton County police at (770) 477-3648.
Initially when police requested assistance from Home Depot regarding the case they were told they would need a subpoena to get the documents, Turner said. On Wednesday the company reversed its position and gave the police access to the videos without a subpoena even as police were writing that document.
The company is always happy to help in police investigations, Home Depot spokesman John Simley said. However, requiring a subpoena from police before releasing documents on customers and purchases is standard procedure, Simley said, and Home Depot would not release documents without one.
"That would mean any cop can walk into any store and demand information on what you and I are buying," Simley said. "If we did that we could be sued by the customer for violating their privacy."
The funeral for Hall, who was an assistant dean and director of the MBA program at Clark Atlanta University, is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Providence Missionary Baptist Church at 2295 Benjamin E. Mays Drive in Atlanta, said Hall's brother-in-law, Sam Tucker Jr.
Tucker said the family has been following the police investigation closely and they hope the video will lead to the owner of the dryer.
"It's not about revenge," Tucker said. "I think it would be nice to see someone be held responsible for this because it was so senseless."
Also, the family would like everyone to be more careful when transporting items on the interstate.