Billy Inman hasn’t received a Father’s Day card in 17 years, after his son, Dustin, was killed when an immigrant in the country illegally drove into the family car at a red light while the Inmans were on their way to the north Georgia Mountains in 2000.
“(The years he’s been gone has) been a year longer than my son was alive,” Billy Inman said. Dustin Inman was 16 years old when he was killed.
Kathy Inman, Billy Inman’s wife, suffered a severe brain injury that’s left her in a wheelchair and requires her to visit doctors multiple times a week for her ailments, he said.
This week marks the 17th anniversary of his son’s death, he said, with little change for his wife’s medical condition and capturing the man who’s responsible, Inman said. But it also marks the anniversary of another day, when Inman said he started to see a little change in the problem he’s fought against for almost two decades.
On June 16, 2015, Inman said he sat and watched, along with other Americans, as Donald Trump announced his run for the 2016 presidential election and condemned Mexico for allowing its illegal immigrants to pour into the country.
“My mouth just flew open,” Inman said.
Illegal immigration is an issue, he said, where his concerns were ignored, despite his own experience and attempts to raise awareness.
Gonzalo Harrell-Gonzalez, the man charged with Dustin Inman’s death, is accused of slamming his car into the Inmans in Ellijay at 60 mph and fleeing from authorities while being transported to the hospital for his own injuries. He’s believed to have fled to Mexico, Billy Inman said, and a letter Inman received from the Department of Justice last year states the Mexican government will not extradite its citizens to the United States for vehicular homicide charges.
“It’s still a problem and everybody is jumping on Trump for doing this, but this is what got him elected,” he said. “I feel it in my heart, this is what got Donald Trump elected as president of the United States.”
Every year since his son’s death, Inman said he’s spoken with politicians about illegal immigration, who always give their condolences but fail to act. Under Trump’s administration, he said he’s finally starting to see progress.
“Why did it take Donald Trump to do something about this problem?” he asked.
Inman said he understands why someone would want to come to the U.S., and sympathized that the process was too long and complicated. He has no ill will against those who come here legally and isn’t racist, he said, but the country shouldn’t be a sanctuary for those who reside here illegally.
“There’s too many people passing the buck and turning a blind eye,” he said.
When asked what people could do on a local level to help with the problem, Inman said they can speak with their vote.
“I never voted until this happened,” he said. “Because I feel like politics is a club.”
His desire for justice has connected Inman with several politicians in hopes to solve illegal immigration, Inman said. The Dustin Inman Society, a coalition formed to secure American borders and fight against illegal immigration, was named in honor of Dustin Inman and led by D.A. King.
Through his efforts, Inman said he and his wife have been invited to Washington, D.C., four times, including the inauguration for President Trump in January. However, Kathy Inman’s health was not in good condition for travel until April, he said
The Inmans visited leadership members of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, including Thomas Homan, the acting director of the agency, along with seven other families whose relatives had died at the hands of illegal immigrants, Inman said.
“I think I talked with (the other families) for years on the computer and I never got to meet these people,” he said. “It was truly an honor.”
A GoFundMe account to help the Inmans with their medical bills was created in December 2016. So far, they’ve raised $3,010 of their $10,000 goal. Billy Inman said the funds have helped him pay for his wife’s caretakers, who cost somewhere between $14 to $25 an hour while he himself only makes $16 an hour and works three days a week as a truck driver.
“I want to make some sort of normal life,” he said. “I try to make the best of my life and thank God and make it to the end of the month.”
The last Father’s Day present he received from his son is a Jeff Foxworthy “You might be a redneck …” T-shirt, Inman said, which hangs on a wall in his home. His dreams, he said, of camping up in the north Georgia mountains and teaching grandchildren to hunt and fish are shot.
“I feel like such a failure,” he said for not being able to capture Dustin’s killer.
The only thing that will put this issue to rest, is the capture of Harrell-Gonzalez, Inman said. He’s been unable to turn the next page of his life, he said, and move on.
“When the man is held accountable, I can turn this page,” he said. “… I wish what happened to my son wouldn’t happen to anyone else.”
To make a contribution to help the Inmans afford their medical expenses, visit www.gofundme.com/help-billy-and-kathy-inman.