JEFFERSONVILLE — There were no injuries after a car witnesses say was stolen in Shelbyville, Ky., crashed into a nonprofit organization in downtown Jeffersonville on Tuesday morning.
Bryan Marshall, president of World Expositions, which owns the now-damaged Wilcox building at 146 Spring St., was in his adjoining office when he heard the collision and ran out to see what had happened. No one was in the part of the building that was hit.
“I thought it was a plane crashed,” he said. “The whole building shook.”
The white SUV was partly wedged in the front windows of Purr-Fect Treasures, a thrift store that supports the 100% volunteer cat rescue Animal Protection Association.
Police have not yet provided details on what led to the crash, which also took down a street pole, but witnesses say it stemmed from a high-speed chase that started in Shelby County and continued into Jefferson County, Ky., and into Clark County. Witnesses also say the juvenile driver was quickly apprehended.
“It’s one thing to lose a building but we are so fortunate as a community, one, that he didn’t kill anybody, and two, to have a strong police force,” Marshall said.
An hour earlier, around 8 a.m., Shelbyville resident Ashley Riley was getting ready to leave the house with her three children. She had put her purse in her car and the keys on top, and was hurrying the kids out so they wouldn’t be late.
“I was about to put my kids in the car and my daughter told me somebody was in it,” Riley said after she got to the scene in Jeffersonville where her car was located. The mother said initially she started chasing the vehicle, yelling for someone to call 911. She said the stolen car almost hit her and a neighbor.
In Jeffersonville, Riley took belongings from the car after it had been extracted from the building. She believes it’s totaled, and said she was shocked to learn the suspect was so young.
“I’d like to talk to that boy’s parents,” Riley said. “Obviously he’s never worked a day in his life. People work hard for their things...I’m a single mom with three kids.”
Christina Mattingly, vice president of the Animal Protection Association, rushed to the scene when she learned of the collision. She said she hadn’t been able to get inside to see if any of the merchandise had been damaged, but said the crash was likely another blow to the shelter’s funding. They’d already been operating only three days a week due to COVID-19, and said overall donations were down about 40% this year.
The shelter helps cats and kittens from Southern Indiana and Louisville; as of Tuesday, Mattingly said they had 39 adult cats at the Jeffersonville shelter at 11th Street and another 67 kittens in foster homes.
“As of right now, the thrift store is what’s keeping our little shelter afloat,” she said. “We can’t have fundraisers like we normally do, so it’s going to hurt us.”
People who wish to assist the shelter with monetary or supplies donations can visit https://www.apa-pets.org/
A representative of the Jeffersonville Fire Department on scene said the damage appeared to be mainly to the windows of the building and not structural, and Mattingly later said she believed the store may be closed for about a week.
The Jeffersonville street department director said the felled city pole will have to be replaced and that there will be temporary traffic signals placed at the intersection in the meantime.
The building itself operated from 1924 to 1980 as the showroom for the Chevrolet dealership in Jeffersonville, said Marshall, the building co-owner. The glassed-in portion damaged Tuesday was built in 1955 to feature the 1957 Chevrolet.
While it’s not something he wanted to see happen, Marshall seemed to be taking the crash in stride as he talked with city and emergency officials, and worked on what needs to happen next.
“You know what, I’ve been in business so long...I’ve seen every tragedy,” he said.