City Commission honors Decatur student whose quick thinking led to arrest of hit-and-run suspect

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Decatur High School student Tessa Hibner (left) received a community service award from Police Chief Scott Richards (right) during the city commission meeting on Oct. 16, 2023. Photo Courtesy of the city of Decatur.

By Zoe Seiler

Decatur, GA — A Decatur High School student received a community service award, during the Decatur City Commission meeting on Oct. 16, for helping the police department identify the suspect who hit a school crossing guard in September.

The incident occurred on Sept. 11. Police arrested Alrahman Heath, 38, the next day around 4:20 p.m. He’s facing charges of a hit-and-run and failure to yield to a pedestrian.

Sgt. John Bender had previously said an alert Decatur High student witnessed the crash and gave police all the details they needed to make the arrest. The student also rendered aid to the crossing guard, identified as 69-year-old Decatur resident Jeffery Smith. The driver allegedly struck Smith in the back before leaving.

At the time, police did not identify the student. Multiple media outlets attempted to track the student down with no luck, according to a colleague of Smith’s. But on Oct. 16, the city commission revealed her identity as Tessa Hibner.

Bender said the Hibner “did an excellent job” of providing the details that led to the arrest, including the make and model of the car, a description of the driver, and the license plate number. Bender said the driver admitted to hitting Smith when he was arrested.

Smith suffered non-life-threatening injuries. He attended the Oct. 16 city commission meeting, along with other school crossing guards. All the crossing guards, especially Smith, were recognized for their service to the community as well.

Police Chief Scott Richards said he was honored to recognize Hibner who performed “a very courageous act.” He also thanked Hibner’s parents.

“Y’all have done a truly amazing job raising an amazing teenager, so thank you for everything you’ve done,” Richards told the Hibners.

Hibner received a community service award to recognize her assistance to the Decatur Police Department during the investigation of the hit-and-run incident.

“On Sept. 11, 2023, Ms. Hibner was walking to school and while crossing the street with a school crossing guard witnessed a hit-and-run accident involving the crossing guard,” Richards said. “Ms. Hibner not only ensured the victim’s safety, but also took immediate action by obtaining the license plate of the suspect’s vehicle and providing a detailed description of the driver. She displayed remarkable courage and quick thinking in a moment of crisis.”

The information Hibner provided led officers to locate the suspect’s vehicle on Sept. 12 and conduct a traffic stop.

“The driver of the vehicle matched the description provided by her, leading to a positive identification and a confession by the suspect during subsequent investigative interviews,” Richards said. “The outcome would not have been possible without her invaluable assistance. Her actions serve as an inspiration to us all and reflect the highest standards of civic responsibility.”

Hibner also received a certificate of appreciation from Mayor Patti Garrett on behalf of the city commission.
Tessa Hibner (second from left) received a community service award from Decatur Police Chief Scott Richards (left) for assisting in the hit-and-run investigation where a school crossing guard, Jeffery Smith (center), was struck by a car in September. Photo courtesy of the city of Decatur.
Read the article on Decaturish.