Resident honored for chasing down a drunk driver | May 13, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 13, 2011

Resident honored for chasing down a drunk driver

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

by Sue Dremann

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 more. Sergeants Ken Kratt and Scott Savage and Agents Tony Becker and Kelly Burger will receive promotions, Lt. Sandra Brown said.

Allen is still affected by the injuries she received when she was thrown against the windshield during the crash, she said. But she hasn't forgotten Finley's willingness to track down and stop the driver from injuring more people, she said.

"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.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at


Like this comment
Posted by shiloh
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2011 at 5:48 pm

yeah Mike Finley! He's a great guy! I don't live in the states but he is a facebook friend of mine.

Like this comment
Posted by Hershel Yatovitz
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2011 at 6:52 pm

I have known Michael Finley for many years and I'm not surprised, just very proud of him!

Like this comment
Posted by Allen
a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Very confusing for the article to refer to the victim simply as "Allen". I assume that is a last name since the article says she is a mother.

And who was the driver? Since she was convicted, her name should be public record. Was there ever a new report about her arrest?

Like this comment
Posted by IN THE KNOW mother
a resident of Green Acres
on May 15, 2011 at 2:57 pm

I feel for the woman who was hit. Over 20 years ago I was hit while sitting in my car waiting for my husband. A woman ran her car into ours and exchanged information on the damage she did to the car. The next day, I felt like I "slept on the pillow wrong" neck was stiff and sore. By the beginning of the second day I was CRYING tears in pain and went to the emergency dept at Stanford. They gave me drugs and a neck collar to wear, which over the next few weeks didn't really help out the "SOFT TISSUE INJURY" that I endured..... I was unable to sit, stand, sleep, being in so much continual pain, it was horrible. I had always herd of WHIPLASH and all the jokes that went along with it, but I KNOW first hand now how it happens. I first took drugs for the pain, then had physical therapy, chiropractic care and acupuncture~ NONE that brought me much relief. Only the warm water swimming pool therape seemed to help ( a year later). To this day I still have some neck pain. Traffic injuries are no joke. I hope this woman recovers and realizes how long it may take to, it is a serious injury to your body, no matter WHAT those insurance company lawyers try to tell a judge and jury.
Great rescue job Mike Finley! Perhaps that drunk driver will be forced to sober up after knowing she was responsible for the personal injury that she caused ~and get her own treatment for her drinking problem. God forbid another person would face the rath of a drunk driver.

Like this comment
Posted by IN THE KNOW mother
a resident of Green Acres
on May 15, 2011 at 3:03 pm

P.S... I think Finley deserves AT LEAST a new pair of shoes for the effort!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Like this comment
Posted by michael finley
a resident of Barron Park
on May 9, 2013 at 8:33 am

I agree with who wrote that thr woman who hit my students momshould of been put in the paper. She's head of I.T. at cisco and becuase she is a rich white lady the DA didn't even want to press felony charges!! OUTRAGEOUS!!! imagine if it was a young brown skinned man who was a fulltime student doing a delivery job?? he'd be sentenced to prison for years no questions asked. If it was me? a poor musician, same thing....The "justice" system makes me sick