News

Resident honored for chasing down a drunk driver

Palo Alto police will recognize Michael Finley, others for extraordinary acts

When Michael Finley saw the flash go by and heard the crashing metal, he didn't think twice about what he was about to do.

Finley was giving a guitar lesson in his Olive Avenue home in Palo Alto Oct. 11, 2010, when a car driven by a drunk driver hurtled down the quiet street and slammed into a van parked across the street.

His student's mother was in the van. Finley saw the hit-and-run from his home's window and didn't waste a minute in reacting, he recalled this week. He ran barefoot for several blocks after the reckless driver and chased her down until she stopped.

"I found her about three or four blocks away near the intersection of El Camino Real and Oregon Expressway. The car was hobbling. I ripped open the door and started screaming at her like a mad woman," he said.

On Tuesday, May 17, Finley will receive a certificate of recognition from the Palo Alto Police Department for his heroism, which resulted in the driver's arrest. He and other citizens who have made a difference will receive the honors along with police officers receiving promotions during an afternoon ceremony.

Other residents to be honored include Stan Rockson, Jeanette Tucker and Sammy Williams, all of whom called 911 when people were wandering the Caltrain tracks. Officers were able to save the people, Lt. Sandra Brown said. Sergeants Ken Kratt and Scott Savage and Agents Tony Becker and Kelly Burger will receive promotions.

"Not many people would do that. It takes a really special person to take the initiative to do what's right. It put a lot of faith in mankind for me," she said.

Allen was inspired to ask police Chief Dennis Burns to honor Finley for his heroics after reading about a similar ceremony held by Menlo Park police, she said.

She didn't know the department was following through until she recently received a call from Brown, she said.

Finley has taught Allen's son for about four or five years, she said. On the afternoon of the accident, Allen had just unbuckled her seatbelt and was about to get out to pick up her son when the driver hit her car from behind at about 30 mph, she said.

Finley first checked on Allen, who, he said, was screaming but appeared mostly to be in shock.

"I was angry. Last year, someone ran over my dog," he said.

Chasing after the driver wasn't difficult; her car was badly damaged, he said. Finley put his body between the door and the vehicle. He could see the woman was impaired, he said.

"She was wasted-drunk -- blacked out -- driving at 4 p.m. with two dogs in the car. I could understand if she did that and stopped. That she drove away was outrageous," he said.

"I told her, 'Don't move.' I made a big stink," he said, which attracted onlookers who called police.

Allen said people who know Finley were not surprised by his actions.

"It meant a lot to me that he keeps following up with me every week. Otherwise, I would be going through a much harder time," said Allen, who still receives physical therapy for a neck injury.

The driver has pleaded no contest and sentencing is scheduled for June 2, Allen said.

Finley humbly dismisses his actions -- and that he is deserving of any recognition.

"The whole thing is ridiculous. To me, it's nothing. Anybody else should've done the same thing. It's kind of embarrassing to me," he said.

Watch it online

A live broadcast of the Palo Alto Police Department's citizen-heroes ceremony will be streamed Tuesday, May 17, at 3 p.m. on Palo Alto Online.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Old Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2011 at 4:06 pm

This is a great story. More people should protect themselves and others. And, this should be taught in schools. The idea that you should walk away from bullies and other menaces is non sense. I tell my son and daughter that if they are bullied they must retaliate or face consequences at home. Any physical harm caused from standing up to a bully is worth it.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of another community
on May 15, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Great job! I had a car totaled by a drunk driver while parked on the street 4 years ago, without neighbors getting involved he might not have been caught. Thank god he didn't hurt anyone.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 15, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Resident, what's the deal w/your street? Sounds pretty active! Thankfully you also have active neighbors ;-) Glad in your case no one was hurt as well.

This is nice to read. Who was the drunk? What happened to her dogs - maybe they went to PAAS?


Like this comment
Posted by T
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Ha! My husband did the same thing a few years back. The neighbor with the car that got hit HATED us until then...he had to eat some crow that night.

Good job Michael Finley! (as an aside: I see you wherever I go, and now here you are on the paper!)


Like this comment
Posted by Big Dunc
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 16, 2011 at 7:31 am

Great job Michael!


Like this comment
Posted by sharon
a resident of Community Center
on May 16, 2011 at 10:39 am

Hats off to you Michael! Your a true hero.


Like this comment
Posted by humor
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 16, 2011 at 10:51 am

i only wish he had screamed like a mad man instead of a mad woman!


Like this comment
Posted by ellen
a resident of Green Acres
on May 16, 2011 at 11:05 am

Michael Finley used to be my trainer at the Y. He has always been a man driven by ethics and values. I see that he continues to be driven the same way. Way to go Mike. You should be very proud!


Like this comment
Posted by Mary Cafiero
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 16, 2011 at 11:15 am

Great job, Mike. You're an inspiration to the rest of us.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 16, 2011 at 11:50 am

So ... why can't we find and get people like this into local government.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 16, 2011 at 11:59 am

The thing is though, and this may be anecdotal and specific to me, but I seem to be seeing a lot of either drunk or bad drivers lately.

As I drive around I see cars routinely, almost everywhere I go that are weaving around in their lanes and moving into my lane so often I have to wonder what on Earth is going on.

Does anyone else see this or worse? Are cars just too big now, or people really bad drivers or under the influence, or distracted? What is going on?


Like this comment
Posted by _
a resident of another community
on May 16, 2011 at 12:42 pm

MIKE RULES. He's an awesome guy - I haven't seen him in a few years but it doesn't surprise me that he'd hold it down like this.


Like this comment
Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on May 16, 2011 at 1:22 pm

"...I ripped open the door and started screaming at her like a mad woman," he said.

Tell me, how does a mad woman scream as opposed to a mad man? Higher pitch? hysterical?


Like this comment
Posted by Clyde
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 16, 2011 at 2:07 pm

And he (probably) no longer taught that particular student.


Like this comment
Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Agreed:

Not a fan of "started screaming at her like a mad woman."


Like this comment
Posted by what happened?
a resident of Downtown North
on May 16, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Who is the hit-and-run drunk driver? Is she facing jail time?


Like this comment
Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on May 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm

All men are capable of screaming like a mad woman, Just as all women are capable of screaming like a mad man.. Its equal opportunity screaming..


Like this comment
Posted by Been there
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 16, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Congratulations Mike!

I saw an apparently drunk driver hit a bicyclist a couple months ago and run. I chased him down in my car. My wife called 911 and we stayed with him until the police caught up to us and arrested him. We heard the bicyclist wasn't too badly hurt despite a pretty spectacular looking crash (he flew up into the air as he was hit from behind.) Haven't heard anything about charges or trial yet, although the driver's attorney interviewed us.


Like this comment
Posted by Gunn Class of '67
a resident of Barron Park
on May 17, 2011 at 1:51 am

Gunn Class of '67 is a registered user.

Bravo to you Michael Finley!

You sense of justice compelled you to action
on autopilot regardless of potential danger
to yourself. Wow!

Awesome!


Like this comment
Posted by Observant neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on May 17, 2011 at 10:54 am

"He ran barefooted"............Seems like a gift certificate from the Chief to a shoe store would be in order..........;)


Like this comment
Posted by sevilla finley
a resident of another community
on May 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Michael Finley ran the stretch to catch a hit and run
driver; he is a hero. Congratulations, Mike. You deserve
recognition.


Like this comment
Posted by S.A. White
a resident of another community
on May 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm

I've known Michael all of his life and he is an
honest and caring person with integrity...he's a good guy.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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