A Minnesota police department got an anonymous envelope last month, sent to the attention of the chief. Inside was $1,000 in cash and a letter, which said the sender hit a car one night in the ‘80s and drove off. The sender apologized for any inconvenience caused three decades ago and asked for forgiveness.
The local Pioneer Press reports that Bill Messerich, chief of the South St. Paul, Minnesota police department, said he got the envelope and that it came with 10 $100 bills “staring at [him] in the face.” That kind of thing doesn’t happen every day, Messerich told the outlet. With the money was a letter, which the Pioneer Press reports said the following:
On a night back in 1985 or 1986 I hit a parked car on the 1050 block of Dwayne Ave. in So. St. Paul and did not stop to leave my information.
The damage to my vehicle was minor; I don’t know how much was done to the other vehicle.
I don’t know whose car I hit but if your records go back that far and you can locate the owner please give them the $1,000.00 which I have enclosed.
If you cannot locate the owner please give the money to a police charity.
I am sorry for any inconvenience that I have caused and I ask for your forgiveness.
The letter was postmarked Nov. 3, more than 30 years after this alleged hit and run happened. The Press reports that Messerich said records don’t go back that far, so the department put the funds into its general donation account. The money, he told the Press, will go toward buying new equipment or technology.
Here’s what other officials thought about the money, from the Pioneer Press:
City Administrator Steve King said he hasn’t seen a donation like it in his 35 years of city government.
“It’s a pleasant surprise,” he said. “It’s nice to be the recipient, so there’s that part of it. But it’s also good to see there’s redemption after all those years.”
That might have read weirdly, since the intended recipient was the person on the other side of this alleged hit and run, or a “police charity”—not the police department, necessarily. The reporter who covered the story for the Press, Nick Ferraro, told Jalopnik he learned about the money when it was in a city-council agenda, and that it had to be approved since it was a larger donation amount. He said it was on the consent agenda, meaning it was approved without discussion.
Since the South St. Paul Police Department has community organizations like the Jaycees, a nonprofit youth-leadership group, and the local Lions Club, which says it donates funds “to community events, schools and other select causes,” listed on its website, Jalopnik asked Messerich about the decision on where to deposit the funds.
“Well, it said police charity and it really wasn’t specific,” Messerich said, in response to whether there’s perhaps a rule preventing the department from donating it to a charity organization. “ The police department certainly accepts donations from the public and businesses, so we put it in the police donation fund.”
When asked if the community groups would have been a better fit, Messerich told Jalopnik “it’s just a ‘who do you give it to’” type of situation.
“If [the letter] had been more specific, we certainly would have routed it to the appropriate organization,” Messerich said.
It sure would have been a good story to see that poor person from the alleged hit and run of 1985 or 1986 finally get an apology, and a little spending money to go along with it. But maybe they’ll at least see the story, and that the local police get a few new toys because of their suffering on that night in the ‘80s.
I’d rather some kids get a few new toys, personally.