County drops charge against truck driver tasered by cops seven times

| 11/12/2007

Larry Works spoke with the ease of a guiltless man after he described being cleared of a felony charge that could have landed him behind bars for several years.

“The deal went through,” Works told Land Line as he and his wife, Chris, – both OOIDA members and team drivers – headed south to Yuma, AZ, to pick up a load Monday, Nov. 12.

The deal pre-empted a criminal trial centering on a truck driver being forcibly removed from his cab by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy hired by a motor carrier to watch truck stop parking spaces.

Works, from Holladay, TN, had been facing a felony charge of attempted assault on a law enforcement officer stemming from one day in July 2006 in which sheriff’s deputies reportedly shot him seven times with electric stun guns. Newton County Judge Kevin Selby agreed this past week to allow prosecutors to drop the felony charge if Works pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and accepted a sentence of two years probation.

According to Works, the incident started when he and his wife pulled into the Petro 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.

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

“His squad car shot right up to my front fender,” Works said. “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 own driver’s side door open so hard it came back and hit his leg, Works said.

According to Works, the two argued and eventually the man said, “I think I’ll just arrest you,” although he hadn’t shown a badge or identified himself as a law enforcement officer.

Works said he backed in to the original parking spot he wanted, and the man then went back to the patrol car and called 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 hand-held two-way radio, Works said.

The man climbed up the driver’s side step and according the Works, tried to open the door, which was locked, before falling to the parking lot and drawing his pistol and telling the truck driver to leave his truck.

“I said, ‘No man, this isn’t right,’” 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, tasered him seven times and pepper sprayed him in the face.

As a result of being pepper sprayed and shot with the stun guns, Works said he suffers aches in his joints and teeth and uncontrollable muscle twitching and shaking. He told Land Line his sinuses still burned months after he first inhaled the pepper spray.

Nearly 18 months after that fateful day in Joplin, the pain of being shocked 14 times remains vivid.

“The Tasers they used on me were 50,000 volts each,” Works said. “The doctor told me it stopped and started my heart at least twice that night.”

Works said one sheriff’s deputy even threatened him as the arrest was being made.

“He got down in my face and said, ‘I hope you’re real proud of yourself, Mr. Works; you just lost your truck,’ ” Works said.

Steve Cathers, the sheriff’s deputy wearing casual clothes and driving a sheriff’s patrol car, gave his side of the story in a probable cause affidavit Newton County officials used to pursue criminal charges against Works.

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,” the affidavit states.

The affidavit didn’t mention use of stun guns, but Cathers briefly mentioned deputies using “several less lethal options” used to control Works. Cathers hasn’t returned calls from Land Line, and Works claims that attorneys involved in the case have had difficulty locating Cathers since the incident.

Newton County Sheriff Kenneth Copeland told Land Line that Cathers was working with the Jasper County, MO, Sheriff’s Department.

Larry Works’ legal battle isn’t over.

He told Land Line he’s scheduled to finalize language for his civil lawsuit against Newton County during the next few weeks before it’s filed.

While Works plans to continue quarterbacking his legal battle, each stop he makes in Missouri is hitting his pocketbook by thousands of dollars in missed loads and extra diesel.

But Works is glad he won’t be fighting his civil suit from a jail and instead is coordinating his case while behind the wheel.

“We’re still working,” he said.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer