We’re near the two-week mark when law enforcement officials said they might conclude their investigation into the crash that claimed the life of Kevin Ward Jr.
Ward died after he was struck by the right-rear tire of Tony Stewart’s car in a dirt-track race Aug. 9 at Canandaigua Motorsports Park.
So far, I have avoided weighing in on who I believe is at fault in the crash.
There are several reasons for this:
First off, I’m not qualified. The Ontario County (N.Y.) Police Department and District Attorney’s office have professional trained investigators who do this for a living. They are interviewing witnesses, examining evidence, reconstructing the crash and doing what they are paid to do when someone dies unnaturally: Performing what is hopefully a painstakingly detailed, thorough and impartial analysis of what happened that night. It is the job of law enforcement to gather the facts and make a ruling.
I don’t get to interview witnesses. I don’t get to examine a single piece of evidence, nor have I ever even been to that track. How could my opinion of who’s to blame and who isn’t possibly be more informed than that of the investigators?
Both Stewart and the Ward family deserve to have a professional investigation that leaves no stone unturned in finding out the truth about what happened. Both parties deserve a fair and detailed investigation, instead of a lot of bluster and hot air.
Second, respect. A young man is dead. The lives of his family have been altered forever. By the same token, whatever the outcome of the police investigation is, Stewart will have to live with this all his days, too. Even if he is fully exonerated, this will have implications that will affect his career and his livelihood forever.
Some believe this is a zero-sum game, that there will be a winner and a loser in this case. There won’t be. There are two sides who are both devastated and suffering.
Third, my opinion doesn’t matter. Neither does your opinion.
Social media is great because it gives everyone a voice. Sign up for a free account on Twitter or Facebook and you can instantly scream out to the world what you believe about anything and everything. It’s beautiful, it really is. Most of the time.
But this is a criminal investigation, not a popularity contest. The case will be determined by the weight of the evidence, not the weight of public opinion.
I don’t get a vote in the legal outcome of this case.
Neither do race fans on social media.
Yes, you can say whatever you think and believe. Just understand that no matter how passionate your opinion, it is just that: an opinion, not a vote for or against either side.
So I apologize to those of you who have e-mailed me with "proof" of what happened that night or sent me your blog posts and points of view about what you believe, however well-reasoned. I haven’t answered any of you and I won’t.
Thank you, race fans, for your interest and your passion and strong beliefs. Unfortunately, passion and beliefs can’t change what happened on the track that night.
Right now, a police investigation is ongoing, a family lost a beloved son and one of the sport’s greatest drivers is facing the most devastating crisis of his career. My thoughts and prayers go out to all involved at this dark time. And I hope that when this case is ultimately resolved, the healing process can begin.