Driver identified in Ole Miss Confederate statue crash

Posted on Sep 17 2017 - 5:59pm by Lana Ferguson

This article was updated at 2:15 p.m. Monday with a statement from the University Police Department, including the name of the driver.

This article was updated at 12:21 p.m. Monday with a statement from the university.

The Confederate statue is stable and not at risk of falling. The statue was dedicated by the citizens of the City of Oxford and Lafayette County in 1906. Photo by Lana Ferguson

The Confederate soldier statue and its contextualization plaque in the Circle suffered damage when a silver pickup truck plowed into it sometime around 10:30 p.m. Saturday. The driver and passenger are not current or former students or employees, according to university officials.

UPD released a statement Monday with the name of the driver and the charges. Here is the statement:

“The driver of the vehicle, Coty Pierce Lewis, has been charged with Driving Under the Influence, Expired Tag, No Proof of Liability Insurance, and No Drivers License. At this time, nothing indicates that this event was an intentional act.”

The university released a statement Monday:

“Late Saturday evening, an allegedly intoxicated driver ran into the Confederate statue on the Oxford campus. The base of the statue and the brass plaque in front of the statue sustained damage. The damaged pieces are being stored by the Facilities Management Department during the investigation. A thorough review by a structural engineer will be needed to determine the full extent of the damage and the structural integrity of the statue. In the meantime, the area remains cordoned off to ensure public safety. The University Police Department continues to investigate the accident. The university can confirm that those involved with this accident are not current or former students or employees.”

University Police Chief Tim Potts said that so far into the investigation, there is no indication that crashing the truck into the statue was intentional.

The plaque in front of the Confederate statue was knocked loose and is in Facilities Management’s possession. The plaque will eventually be replaced. Photo by Lana Ferguson

“We had people at the scene last night, and obviously, with everything going on in the nation, we want to make it abundantly clear to everybody that there’s no indication that this was intentional,” Potts said. “Due to the statue, we’ve contacted the FBI, just to make them aware of (the situation) and to make sure we are not missing any charges that could or could not be filed. We just want to make sure we take care of all angles on this and do our due diligence and go from there.”

The two people in the car sustained non-life-threatening injuries, and the driver was charged with driving while intoxicated. The investigation is still ongoing.

The damage to the statue itself was mainly to the decorative base, while the foundational base supporting the weight of the statue did not receive any of the damage.

“The statue on top and everything appears to be level and firm,” Potts said. “There’s no imminent threat of the statue falling.”

With the help of Facilities Management, loose articles and debris around the statue were removed. The area was cleaned up and barricaded off last night. Among the loose articles was the contextualization plaque placed in front of the statue last spring. Potts said the plaque and the other loose articles were taken by Facilities Management and will be maintained by it until everything can be replaced.

Pharmacy student Dana Williams was one of the onlookers passing by on the Circle when the crashed truck was still on the scene.

She was studying in Carrier Hall and left a little after 10 p.m. when she saw the Circle was blocked off by fire trucks, ambulances and police cars.

“I had my car parked in the Circle, so I had to wait there about 10 minutes before I could get out,” Williams said. “I just took a picture of what happened. I initially thought that someone was distracted and missed the turn around the Circle.”

Christine Rizzi, a graduate instructor in the history department, tweeted the photo from Williams and tagged the Oxford Police Department, asking what happened.

“PLEASE give us an update on this insanity,” she tweeted.

OPD responded, saying UPD was looking into the incident. Police released some information via Twitter on Saturday night, like that the people in the vehicle were taken to the hospital for evaluation and the driver was suspected of driving under the influence.

Photos of the crash scene and, later, of the barricaded statue’s damage were posted all over social media. The plaque to the right of the statue in the photos was frequently confused for the 2016 contextualization plaque being moved after the crash. The pictured plaque beside the statue was actually erected in 2008 deeming the Circle a national historic landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

– Lana Ferguson