A John Deere tractor led police on a low-speed chase last week in Boone, North Carolina. According to the Watauga County 911 center, they received calls about a male on a tractor trying to strike pedestrians and vehicles while traveling on Highway 421.
As Boone police officers and Watauga Sherriff's deputies responded to the calls, they received more reports of the tractor striking multiple vehicles. The first officer located the suspect, 43-year-old Ronnie K. Hicks, in the parking lot of the Three Forks Baptist church. Still operating the tractor, Hicks pushed a dumpster into the church building and then proceeded off at a low rate of speed as police officers followed.
The law enforcement officers pursued the tractor on US Highway 421, Old Highway 421, and Elk Creek Road, working to divert oncoming traffic to protect motorists in the area. Hicks continued to drive erratically, swerving back and forth into oncoming traffic in an attempt to thwart the pursuit. At least four vehicles were damaged by the tractor, including a Ford Explorer patrol vehicle that was intentionally rammed. The damage to all vehicles is estimated at thousands of dollars.
Eventually, police deployed stop sticks in an attempt to end the chase. They successfully deflated both front tires, but the tractor continued on. As the chase continued toward a local school, increasing concerns about public safety, law enforcement officials were given the authorization to shoot the tractor's tires. Using a rifle, they deflated both rear tires, slowing the chase considerably.
The tractor swerved up a private drive, where Hicks abandoned the tractor, fleeing on foot. He brandished a knife at the law enforcement officers, one of whom deployed a Taser after Hicks failed to follow the officers' commands. Eventually, he was taken into custody and charged with multiple misdemeanor and felony violations, including theft of the tractor, fleeing arrest, driving while impaired, and reckless driving.
Police were quick to praise the quick response and cooperation of multiple law enforcement agencies, which brought this incident to a close without any injuries. Currently, Hicks is being held on a $50,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court on March 10.