Akron police had a new suspect in custody Friday after city prosecutors dismissed all charges against an elementary school parent mistakenly identified as the hit-skip driver who fled after injuring a kindergartner walking home from classes two weeks ago.
Police Lt. Rick Edwards said Shaune Chesney, 48, of Westgay Drive, was released from the Summit County Jail on Thursday after the department received a CrimeStoppers tip leading them to the identity of the new suspect.
Officers from the department’s Traffic Bureau followed up on the tip, Edwards said, and interviewed William E. Wilkes Jr., 38, of North Hawkins Avenue in Akron.
Wilkes confessed to the hit-skip incident during the interview, Edwards said, and subsequently was charged with driving under a suspended license and felony hit-skip for the incident that left 5-year-old Joshua Shaw with multiple fractures of his left leg.
In a Beacon Journal interview within an hour of the police announcement Friday that he had been cleared, Chesney said he was glad police “caught the right guy” and immediately added that his “thoughts and prayers have always been with the student who was injured.”
Chesney said he would like to talk to Joshua’s mother after the Easter holiday to tell her the same thing.
“Everybody threw me under the bus,” he said, “but I prayed about that and I was very bothered by what happened to [Joshua].”
Chesney said an Akron police sergeant called him Friday afternoon to tell him they had the right man.
“I commend them for continuing their investigation,” he said. “ I stated to them all along that it wasn’t me, but I know they have a job to do.”
He said he was released from the county jail at 2 p.m. Thursday, but didn’t know he had been cleared of all charges until the sergeant’s call.
“I told him he did a great job and thanked him for calling me and informing me about the new developments,” Chesney said.
He said he received an apology during the call.
Edwards said that when the accident occurred March 15, a witness identified the driver and the vehicle that hit Joshua.
“That was believed to be Chesney,” Edwards said.
Chesney has a dark green 1997 Mercury Marquis. Wilkes, who confessed to the hit-skip, drives a 1995 Chrysler New Yorker, Edwards said.
Joshua and Chesney’s child both attended Judith A. Resnik school on Akron’s west side at the time of the incident, but Chesney said he has pulled his son out of Resnik and soon will have him enrolled in another school.
“I’m embarrassed about this. I didn’t want any problems with him and the other students, and then I was totally unaware that there was going to be an arrest of the actual suspect who did it,” Chesney said.
“This has been traumatizing for my child, and I felt that was the right thing for me to do.”
When Chesney’s arrest was announced last week, police said he denied being the driver who struck Joshua. He pleaded not guilty to the charges during a municipal court appearance March 22.
Court records show the March 15 incident was Chesney’s third arrest for driving with a suspended license.
“Regardless if I had a driving under suspension [arrest] or whatever,” Chesney said Friday, “I would never hit a child and leave him laying in the street like that. No way would I hurt a child. Never. I have a 6-year-old myself.”
Joshua was struck on Goodhue Avenue as he and his 9-year-old sister, Jadynn, made the one-block walk home from Resnik.
The girl told police the driver stopped long enough to apologize, then drove off and left Joshua writhing in pain.
Joshua’s mother said her son will have to use a wheelchair for the next several months while his leg is in a cast.
Edwards said city prosecutors discussed the evolving situation and decided to drop the entire case against Chesney, without prejudice.
Under such a dismissal, prosecutors can refile a charge or charges if new evidence develops.
Under Ohio law, hit-skip is a fifth-degree felony that carries a maximum one-year prison sentence.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.