Wife blames ’06 tasing incident for trucking husband’s death

| 11/10/2009

Professional truck driver Larry Works – husband, father and decorated veteran of the Vietnam War – died at home Monday, Nov. 9, after suffering a heart attack.

He was 61.

Works, a longtime OOIDA member from Holladay, TN, is familiar to many truck drivers after news coverage of a 2006 incident involving an off-duty law enforcement officer at a Missouri truck stop. Officers shot Larry seven times with taser guns by sheriff’s deputies in Newton County, MO, before he was arrested.

Works adamantly denied the deputy’s claim that he had tried to hit the deputy with his truck. The county later reduced charges against him and gave him only probation.

On Tuesday, Chris Works, Larry’s wife of nearly 20 years, said she and her husband were damaged permanently on that summer day at the Joplin truck stop.

The incident occurred when Larry and Chris Works pulled into a truck stop on Interstate 44 in Joplin, MO, in July 2006.

The couple waited to pull into a tractor-trailer space so they could park and walk their dog at 6:30 p.m. on July 29, 2006. Larry Works said he motioned to a man in a Newton County Sheriff’s Department patrol car that he wanted to walk his dog by a nearby tree, and the man leaned out of his driver’s side window and mouthed “no,” while pointing to other spaces in the parking lot.

Larry Works told Land Line in 2007 that he obliged and tried to make a button-hook turn to the right, but as he pulled forward, the patrol car pulled up and blocked him.

“His squad car shot right up to my front fender,” Works said then. “All I could see was his light bar.”

A man wearing a pink polo shirt, khaki shorts and casual shoes got out of the patrol car and slammed his driver’s side door open. The two argued, and the other man said, “I’ll think I’ll just arrest you,” though Works said the man hadn’t identified himself as a law enforcement officer.

Works then backed in to the original parking spot he wanted, and the other man went back to the patrol car and appeared to call someone. The man pulled the patrol car back behind his trailer and came running up the side of the trailer carrying a pistol and a two-way radio, Works said.

The man climbed up the truck’s driver’s side step and tried to open the door, Works said, which was locked. The man dropped to the parking lot and drew his pistol while yelling at the driver to leave his truck.

“I said, ‘No man, this isn’t right,’” Larry Works told Land Line. “We need to call the supervisor; you’re out of control.’”

Works said the man and two uniformed Newton County sheriff’s deputies broke the passenger-side window of the truck and tased him seven times with double-pronged stun guns. The deputies also pepper sprayed him in the face, which caused both Larry and Chris Works to suffer sinus burns that lasted for months, they told Land Line.

Steve Cathers, a former sheriff’s deputy who was wearing casual clothes and driving a sheriff’s patrol car that July day, gave his side of the story in a probable cause affidavit.

According to Cathers, Works attempted to park in an area of the truck stop’s parking lot that “I had secured in reference to high-value loads,” Cathers said, according to court documents.

The affidavit didn’t mention stun guns, but Cathers briefly described deputies using “several less lethal options” to control Works. Cathers didn’t return calls from Land Line at the time, and he stopped working as a Newton County Sheriff’s deputy not long after the incident.

Larry Works’ doctor later told him that taser shots of 50,000 volts likely stopped and restarted his heart at least two times that day.

Chris Works, who was healthy and team drove with Larry, said Tuesday she stopped going on the road with him after she was diagnosed with emphysema and noticed her vision was damaged. She believes both ailments were caused by pepper spray used by deputies during Larry’s arrest on that day in 2006.

On Tuesday, Chris told Land Line that she is convinced that she and Larry both were permanently injured by the incident.

“I know for a fact that everything that has happened since that night has caused me to lose my husband,” Chris Works said. “I’ve lost my very, very best friend.”

Married and on the road

The couple met in the early 1980s when Larry would stop into a diner Chris waited tables at in Lower, IN.

Then a hazmat hauler, Larry was demanding, Chris said.

“He’d ask for everything. ‘Would you get me this, could you get me that,’ ” Chris said, with a chuckle. “And by the time it was over, he wouldn’t leave a tip or anything.”

Several years later, the pair worked together as team drivers. When the company was preparing to split them up with different team drivers during the late 1980s, Chris said Larry popped the question and the couple prepared for a shotgun wedding.

“He got the word that two people above us wanted to split us up as a team,” Chris said. “He said, ‘I can’t let them do that. Let’s go get married.’ I had about five seconds to make a decision as we were delivering a load in Jackson, TN.

“Four hours later we were husband and wife.”

Throughout all the miles, Larry and Chris enjoyed team driving and the long-hauling lifestyle. The Works’ said they figured that compared to the average husband and wife spending 50 years talking for 90 minutes a day, they calculated their 24 hours together over 20 years of marriage as totaling out to a 150-year marriage.

“The one thing that carried us through everything was the humor,” Chris said Tuesday, in between making funeral plans and preparing to put Larry’s Freightliner XL for sale. “We were always side-by-side.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer