COLUMBIA — Marci Mitchell was shocked to find a fresh dent in her red Hyundai on Thursday, but the person who hit her parked car left a gift.
Mitchell left her job at Westlake Ace Hardware on Worley Street at about 11 a.m. and went home for lunch. Walking toward her car as she left her house to go back to work, she noticed something strange on her front bumper.
The strange object turned out to be another vehicle’s license plate.
While her car was parked between the hardware store and Steak n Shake, another vehicle hit her car.
The other driver left, but his license plate’s bolts were stuck into the front of Mitchell’s bumper.
“I totally flipped, I started crying,” she said. “I thought somebody vandalized my car.”
After removing the plate, she saw that the car had hit with enough force that the raised license number was etched into her bumper.
At first, Mitchell was confused.
“I thought for sure someone had bolted this license plate illegally to my car,” she said.
Police used the license plate to track down the suspect, Frank James Barker, 18, of Columbia, police said. He was arrested on suspicion of leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident, which is a misdemeanor, police said.
Police Capt. Zim Schwartze said this isn’t the first time police have found license plates at the scene of car crashes.
“Occasionally two vehicles collide with such force that sometimes the plastic brackets holding license plates will be broken,” she said.
The accident happened while Mitchell’s car was parked under a shade tree by the hardware store — the same parking spot she’s claimed for 17 years. But after what happened Thursday, she said she’s planning on parking closer to the store.