Hit-and-run driver accused of intentionally killing Amish horse

Over the past weekend a driver apparently purposely drove his car into a horse pulling a buggy full of Nappanee, Indiana -area Amish teenagers.

Francisco Gonzalez was captured on a Wal-Mart parking lot camera turning around and returning to the road to run into the buggy horse, which was killed instantly.  The boys were shaken but unhurt; what the driver left behind was described as a “gruesome scene” by a reporter.

Gonzalez, by the way, registered a 0.17 blood-alcohol level.

Amish Horse Hit and Run
Gonzalez’s car showing the impact of the accident

There were conflicting stories with the teens first reporting that the collision was not intentional.  Now the teens are saying that the driver accelerated and swerved into the horse. (NOTE: Reporter Stacey Page has noted below that though the initial police press release stated that the teens described the incident as unintentional, the teens themselves have maintained from the beginning that the driver did in fact hit the horse intentionally.  This discrepancy remains unexplained).

As stomach-turning as incidents like this can be, violence against Amish is not all that uncommon.   For example the book The Amish Way describes robberies which occurred in the Nappanee area in the mid-1990s.  Up to fifteen Amish bicycle riders were attacked and robbed, and some seriously injured.  Amish were seen as easy marks who wouldn’t report crimes (until one Amishman, fearing that someone would be killed, eventually did).

To me this incident is somehow more disturbing than the accounts of those more methodical robberies, even though no one besides the horse was hurt here.  I think that’s due to the seeming spontaneity and maliciousness of the act–and also the unanswered questions.

Did Gonzalez know the victims?  Did they provoke him somehow?  Or was this just a random act of violence by a person who shouldn’t have been on the road to begin with?  Why did the boys’ stories change?  I expect more details will emerge.

Amish hit and run car photo: Warsaw, Indiana Police department

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    34 Comments

    1. As the only reporter on scene that night, I can assure you there reports made by the teens that night were not conflicting. They clearly stated they believed the incident was intentional. That was also reported by at least one eye witness. As to why the police issued a press release saying no one reported that is a mystery.

      1. Thank you Stacey for clarifying. I have adjusted the post above to reflect this info. I wonder why reports had them saying it was unintentional.

    2. Linda

      Was it a buggy or a wagon (like a hay wagon with rubber tires)? Was it Amish or horse-and-buggy Mennonites?

      1. Lance

        It is was the small open wagon with built in seats and small rubber air tires that is becoming common in progressive Amish groups as a large people transporter or stuff hauler.

        These were Amish, the horse and buggy Mennonites are no where near this area.

        1. Lance

          The buggy in the accident is pictured on Stacey’s website. The seats are dislodged and the buggy was knocked off the roadway. You can see the dead horse, but not the wound nor any blood.

          To go to her website, click on her underlined name next to her name above. The articles and picture are in the older posts, so go to the bottom of the page and click on ‘older posts’ until you find the article. Click on the picture until you get the enlarged version so you can see it. It is dark which makes it somewhat hard to see the black buggy.

      2. Mignonne

        Hit-and-run driver accused of intentionally killing Amish horse

        Education is the key to understanding, and acceptable behavior. Lack of education when it comes to cultural awareness and social skills is a sure fire way to allow prejudice, racism, and bigotry to flourish.

        Lack of discipline, and learning about consequences in the home while growing up is another big factor.

        Let’s not leave out our media/govt in this mix either who bombard us with commercials, propaganda, etc. telling us how we can pop a pill to fix just about anything, selling us neat electronic gadgets that work at the speed of light, etc. It’s all about instant gratification which is completely selfish.

        So as appalling and horrifying as actions like this guys were, how can we honestly expect better behavior from people who have never learned any better? We, society as a whole, must do better as well with raising and educating our children if we expect things to improve.

        It is my personal belief that it should be mandatory for schools to teach cultural awareness classes from the very beginning of one’s educational experience. It would certainly go a long way in preventing a large amount of the hateful, selfish, and destructive behavior we see in today’s world.

    3. linda

      In reply to Linda’s comment. what difference does it matter if it was a hay wagon or Amish or Mennonites ? This guy should be punished severely. Sent to jail and license taken away from him.

    4. Thankful the teens were not injured but it is still upsetting!

    5. Roberta

      I don’t give a flying rat’s ass whether it was a hay wagon or a goat cart! What kind of a question is that? He TURNED AROUND to come back and hit them! This guy is seriously dangerous and should be locked up for a long time where he can’t hurt someone else. THIS TIME it was the horse. But he had no way of knowing that in hitting the horse he would kill the horse outright and not do some damage that would seriously injure or kill the kids. He did it anyway and that makes him a very dangerous person. What, or who, is he going to kill next time?

      1. Roberta I understand this may be an upsetting topic but there is nothing wrong with asking that question. There may be a reason for it that you or I do not see. Even if not directly relevant to the man’s actions there is nothing wrong with being curious about the details of the incident.

        Also I would appreciate it if you refrained from using the vulgar language. I believe others would too.

        1. Teresa B.

          Thank you Erik, for your chide to Roberta. I was shocked when I read her post. Maybe she is new to this site, and doesn’t realize we post in a gracious and professional manner here?!

    6. Moira

      horrible

      This is just horrible. The poor horse! This Gonzalez jerk needs to sit in jail for some time and reimburse the Amish person for their horse (they’re not cheap!). The blatant aggression and hostility is disturbing. That there are people out there that do these kinds of things (the robberies too)without any thought or an ounce of compassion and concern for another being is so upsetting to me. I always want to apologize to the Amish community when I read about things like this, I feel so bad about it. No wonder the Amish keep as much distance as possible between our world and theirs. Ours sure is mean and cruel.

    7. Marilyn in New York

      Hit-and-Run Driver

      I am glad the boys were not hurt and any one with a blood content that car driver had shouldn’t be on the road. But, unfortunately, sometimes they are. I use to work in the insurance business for many years and when the boys change the story reminds me of the insurance sort of unwritten rules when something like this happens. There are three sides to every accident: the insured’s, the claimaints and what really happened.

    8. Lattice

      It says Gonzales had a blood alcohol level of 0.17. How “drunk” is that? Is there any possibility that this was not a “hate” crime, but a hasty maneuver by an intoxicated driver? Has anybody heard Gonzales’ story?

      What if he got a call or something that made him really mad, and he turned around and sped back, and, intoxicated as he was, he either forgot that the vehicle was horse-drawn, or misjudged.

      I just wish I knew what he said about the matter.

      1. Carolyn B

        Lattice, to give you a reference re: the blood alcohol level: In Missouri the legal level of intoxication is .08 so this driver was over double the legal limit for the state of Missouri.

        I don’t know if this is a federal level or what other level may be legal in other states.

        Glad no human beings were killed in this event.

        1. Traci Banville

          Glad no human beings were killed .......

          So is it forgiveable to kill an innocent animal ?

      2. Traci Banville

        His side of the story ?

        No explanation could suffice.Nothing could ever justify such mindless and heartless behavior.Are you implying that he was “provoked” ? Yes, that is probably what his lawyer will use as a “defense”. How sad.

        1. It is necessary to know what actually happened...

          I appreciate this is an old story and judgements have been made about what was going on and why by courts which are likely correct, but I feel rather bothered by this, and this is a general comment that would apply to a lot of these types of case.

          I agree that nothing justifies doing such a thing on purpose, and if someone gets themselves drunk deliberately or negligently, they are responsible for what they do in that condition.

          However, suppose, in an identical case, upon investigation it turned out that, in fact:
          The driver was sleepwalking (has been known to happen, I believe), and had not been known to do anything dangerous in this state before, OR,
          The driver had been given drugs and alcohol without his/her knowledge or consent by someone else, OR,
          The driver had a well-controlled-by-medication psycotic disorder, and was usually safe to drive, but had, unbeknownst to anyone, been delievered a dud batch of medication and was starting an attack in consequence, resulting in him/her supposing the horse to be the arch under a bridge, OR
          The driver randomly had a stroke or similar at the wheel, causing the car to swerve (granted, in this case, he/she still shouldn’t have started to drive after drinking).

          All these things would change the dynamics regarding guilt and the appropriate response significantly.

          The truly crazy “not voluntarily drunk” situation has to be auto-brewery syndrome, in which a yeast infection causes alcohol production within the digestive system and subsequent intoxication without ingestion of anything that contains alcohol. It is rare and I hope not too many injustices were done prior to its discovery!

          It is always necessary to ask the probably guilty person about what happened too, and to be seriously trying to find out what actually did happen. Many injustices have been done as a result of people becoming outraged by the severity of the crime alleged and not going enough into the question of whether it was actually committed, either at all, or by the person in question.

    9. Robin

      I just don’t understand why people harbor so much hate and act with total disregard. This guy needs to be prosecuted to the fullest, endangering lives and animal cruelty.

    10. David

      “Stupid is what stupid does.” – Forrest Gump

      1. Traci Banville

        Quotes

        Actually, it is –

        “Stupid is, as stupid does.”
        – Forrest Gump

    11. LeeAnn

      So glad the kids were not hurt. Thanks to Stacey for setting the record straight. Nice to know the reporter that was there, stood up for what was really said!

      I hope people will wake up and start being more careful around the horse and buggies out there. Alot of sad things have happened to the Amish lately.

      They are good people and they show others kindness. Would like others to do the same back for the Amish. Treat them, how you want to be treated by others.

      The blood alcohol level for that driver was higher than most states will allow. Hope he has to repay for the loss of the horse. Also hope the Amish will accept that payment.

      1. Traci Banville

        And just how do you put a price on a horse that you may have bred, raised, and trained ? That was part of your family ? That was not an inanimate object like a car or a bicycle that would be easily payed for and replaced if one had the money ? You have apparently never been owned by a horse.

    12. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      I don’t want to stereotype the car driver, whose picture we could see on the news site and blog, so I won’t comment about it except to say that I don’t want to stereotype. Although deciding not to write out a stereotype I must admit I did stereotype the person, which is sad.
      I glanced through the online story and am I wrong in recounting that the car driver did have a criminal record? Maybe a disregard for the law and callousness toward any form of life could be derived from such an item regardless of one’s ancestral background. Not to stereotype or be prejudice, but people could think that. Again, I don’t want to prejudice or stereotype people.

    13. Ed

      Posts like these make me glad I live in the middle of the big city. I feel safer knowing there are lots of people around, all the time.

      At least, wal-mart parking lots apparently have cameras. In the past, people would not be prosecuted for this sort of criminal act simply because there was nothing to document what happened.

    14. Alice Mary

      Heartless!

      I’m late in reading this post and all commentary.

      What an awful thing to do! Thank God the boys are OK. That poor horse—if it truly did die instantly, it was merciful. It brings back memories of photos of dead horses in the streets in the 19th century. Horrific!

      If there are animal cruelty laws there, they ought to throw the book at him in that regard as well as the DUI count. Where I live (IL), the alcohol limit is the same (.08).

      Please keep us informed about this case. It should be featured by the media at least as much as the “beard-cutting” incident & sentencing!

      Alice Mary

    15. Traci Banville

      Update ?

      Is there an update to this story ?

      1. Was wondering the same the other day. Have not seen one.

    16. Gonzalez was in court on Nov. 1 for an initial hearing and entered a plea of not guilty. A pre-trial conference is set for Dec. 6, 2012 at 10:45 a.m.; status hearing scheduled for Dec 31, 2012 at 9:45 a.m. and an omnibus hearing set for Jan. 11. There really is nothing new transpiring, but watch for a plea agreement to be entered.

      1. Thanks Stacey. You are definitely the go-to person for this story. I’m guessing we’ll see another report from you if something else develops.

        1. I will continue to follow it, yes. Thank you for the interest

    17. Traci Banville

      Not guilty ? Why am I not surprised ?

    18. Linda

      According to Stacey Page, “The man who drove drunk and slammed into a horse pulling a wagon load of Amish teens last fall will spend approximately 18 months in county work release.”

      http://www.staceypageonline.com/2013/11/07/work-release-for-drunk-driving-horse-death/

      1. Here’s some more from Stacey Page. He was in another accident Friday:

        http://www.staceypageonline.com/2013/11/08/breaking-one-flown-from-warsaw-accident/

        http://www.staceypageonline.com/2013/11/12/new-charges-being-filed-against-gonzalez/

        Not a guy I’d want behind the wheel in my neighborhood.