Police vehicle hunt finds alleged hit-and-run pickup

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West Tisbury Police have charged a pickup truck operator in relation to an August 5 hit-and-run collision that sent one motorist away in an ambulance. 

John Athearn, 71, of West Tisbury, was charged with negligent operation of a motor vehicle, leaving the scene of an accident with personal injury, and failure to yield, according to West Tisbury Police Chief Matt Mincone. West Tisbury Police have also made an immediate threat filing against Athearn’s driver’s license in order to suspend it, Mincone added. Mincone said witness accounts helped identify a white, Tacoma-type pickup truck as a suspect vehicle. West Tisbury Police subsequently canvassed neighborhoods, reviewed area video footage, and combed Registry information to locate the vehicle. 

With over 200 Toyota Tacomas on the Vineyard, Mincone described it as a challenging search — ”a needle in a haystack, but you have an idea of the color of the needle.”

Following clues they’d gathered, Mincone said, West Tisbury Police visited Athearn Wednesday evening and observed white duct tape and paint used to conceal damage to the front end of a white Tacoma pickup. 

Athearn allegedly provided police false information about the damage to the truck, but the next day came to the police station to confess. 

Mincone said Det. Nikolaj Wojtkielo was “instrumental” in closing the case. He also said he believes the accident victim was released from the hospital on Monday.