Man who dragged cop pleads guilty

By Kevin Wheatley Published:

The man caught on tape dragging a Frankfort Police officer during a traffic stop has pleaded guilty to assault and other charges.

Russell Wheat, 50, will be sentenced Sept. 2. He faces up to 20 years in prison, but Commonwealth’s Attorney Larry Cleveland recommends four years and will oppose probation, according to the plea agreement.

Cleveland won’t take a position on shock probation, however, the agreement says.

Police pulled over Wheat for not wearing a seatbelt as he drove his maroon Chevrolet truck to the Marathon gas station at the intersection of Wilkinson Boulevard and Schenkel Lane Feb. 4, court documents say.

An unidentified caller told police Wheat, of Debbie Drive, was driving drunk, according tocourt records. Officer Byron Redmon noted a smell of alcohol on Wheat’s breath during the traffic stop, court records show.

Wheat told Redmon he’d just gotten off work and had a few beers, but he later told police he had between six and 10 beers, court documents show.

He also had a small amount of marijuana, court records say.

In a written narrative, Redmon said he opened Wheat’s door and was partially in the truck when Wheat reversed the truck. He (Redmon) tried to stop the truck by using the emergency brake or getting it out of gear, the report says.

The emergency brake stopped the truck momentarily, but Wheat continued his attempt to flee, court records say.

“He (Wheat) said, ‘You better hang on!’ and he then pushed the gas pedal to the floor,” Redmon wrote in the report.

Redmon let go of the truck before it hit a car in the gas station parking lot, court records say. He landed on the pavement and suffered a minor back injury, court documents show.

Several witnesses gave statements regarding the incident, which was also caught on surveillance video.

Wheat said he ditched his truck on Schenkel Lane and hid in the nearby woods, where he could see officers and a helicopter search for him.

Wheat surrendered after talking on the phone with a friend and Frankfort Police, court documents say.

Wheat told police he fled because he feared losing his job as a maintenance worker with Boone National Guard, which he held for 23 years, court documents say. Online state records don’t list Wheat as an employee.

“During the interview Wheat expressed regret over the incident and asked me (Detective Alan Burton, the interviewer) to tell Officer Redmon that he is very sorry and he is grateful that he (Redmon) is okay,” the police summary of Wheat’s interview says.

Dennis Shepherd, Wheat’s public defender, asked that his client’s ankle monitor be removed Friday.

Cleveland said he was reluctant to do that because the device monitors alcohol use and would bring the matter before Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate, who wasn’t in court Friday, on Tuesday.

Retired Franklin Family Court Judge Reed Rhorer took Wheat’s plea.

Wheat pleaded guilty to charges of third-degree assault, first-degree wanton endangerment, fleeing or evading police, leaving the scene of an accident, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, third-degree criminal mischief, possession of marijuana and failure to wear a seat belt.

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