‘I was gonna T-bone him’: Tractor driver helps end dangerous police chase

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — A man operating a tractor in rural Union County helped put a stop to a harrowing police chase Wednesday that ended when the car being pursued ran off the road and plunged into a private pond.

Buzz Palmer said he was “piddling” on his tractor, tilling his garden when he saw the chase come roaring down his gravel driveway off Potter Road.

“That many police aren’t getting a donut truck or a ticket violator. It’s a felony for sure,” Palmer told Channel 9. “I knew he wasn’t coming this way and that’s all there was to it.”

Palmer said he quickly got his grandson inside the house then threw his 17-year-old orange Kabota tractor into high gear and parked across the driveway to block the car from getting past him.

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The driver was able to maneuver around Palmer, so he chased after the car.

“I was going to T-bone him,” Palmer said. “Once he passed here, he was trapped, there’s no other way out. I just had to rodeo him up to keep him going.”

With Palmer pinning him in and nowhere else to go, the driver crashed through a fence into a pasture filled with goats and eventually drove into a pond. Deputies swarmed in and arrested 48-year-old Ward Baxter Weiland on several charges including habitual felon, felony speeding to elude, driving while impaired, and possession of stolen goods.

They also arrested a male passenger, 62-year-old Armond Dewayne Douglas, on outstanding charges unrelated to the pursuit.

A female passenger was released and does not face charges.

As for Palmer’s part, he said it was just the right thing to do.

“He needed to be taken off the road, and with my past training as a volunteer law enforcement diver, I knew I needed to step in,” Palmer explained. “It never crossed my mind not to, so I had motive, which was to stop him. I had equipment, which was my tractor, and I had opportunity since he was coming at me. So it was that simple. If everybody stood up and did what they have to do, life would be a lot easier. Sometimes you just have to step in.”

And if something had happened?

“I had all the backup of Union County behind me,” he said. “They were going to clean the mess up, whatever it was. I learned a simple life lesson: You don’t mess with a Kabota tractor with an old man driving it, and you don’t run from the Union County sheriff.”