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Conviction upheld in tractor chase

By Bob Buckel | Published Wednesday, January 22, 2014

An appeals court last Thursday upheld Timothy Ross Herring’s 2012 conviction for attempted capital murder of a peace officer in connection with a bizarre chase that ended in Wise County.

The chase and Herring’s arrest occurred June 18, 2011. He was convicted in Wise County’s 271st District Court on Oct. 12, 2012, and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Herring, then 21, of Azle, and another man were in northern Parker County when deputies there were alerted that the van they were driving had been stolen in Lake Worth. A pursuit began and Herring, who was driving, fled north into Wise County at high speed.

Wise County deputies joined the pursuit, which came up Big Salty Road and onto County Road 3630, where the van was abandoned at a private residence. Deputies found the van and took the passenger into custody.

Herring, however, fled on foot, jumping fences, stealing beer out of one house and a blanket from another. He found and started a Kubota tractor, which he drove cross-country, fleeing officers who combed county roads for occasional glimpses of the fugitive.

State Trooper Adolfo Patterson joined the search, and after about an hour, caught a glimpse of the tractor. He and Wise County Corporal Matthew Germain leaped over a barbed-wire fence to chase the slow-moving tractor on foot.

Officers had been informed that the suspect was damaging fences and trees and might be carrying a gun.

The chase ended when Herring was confronted by a homeowner, who blocked his path with an ATV. It was at that moment Patterson yelled at Herring, who turned and began driving the tractor toward the trooper.

According to trial testimony, Herring was red-faced, wrapped in a stolen comforter and screaming curses at the officer.

Patterson shot one of the tires, but when the tractor still did not slow down, he stepped to the tractor’s side and fired two shots from about 10 yards away. Herring jumped off the tractor, and Patterson and Germain subdued him.

The appeal was based on the contention that Herring had no intent to kill Patterson and indeed could not possibly have killed the officer with the slow-moving tractor – which by the time the confrontation took place was dragging several hundred feet of barbed wire.

Nevertheless, the appeals court ruled the actions of raising the bucket and turning to drive toward the officer were sufficient evidence of intent.

“The appellant argues only that the evidence is insufficient to support his attempted capital murder conviction,” Chief Justice Terrie Livingston wrote. “Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the jury’s verdict and deferring to the jury’s weighing of the evidence, we conclude that a rational factfinder could have found the elements of attempted capital murder beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Livingston’s decision said the facts of the case were “mostly uncontested.”

No gun was found on Herring or along the path where he had driven the tractor.

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