WATAUGA COUNTY, N.C. — A TikTok video shows police patrol vehicles chasing a man on a John Deere tractor through Watauga County.
The chase started in Boone around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday near Three Forks Baptist Church, according to Boone police. The suspect, Ronnie Hicks, 43, is accused of stealing the tractor and driving it recklessly on Highway 421, crashing into multiple vehicles.
Hicks led officers on a chase through Watauga County, reaching speeds of 25 mph to 30 mph. The video posted to TikTok by user @mr.dangerousone shows emergency vehicles behind the tractor.
Investigators said Hicks is accused of intentionally driving toward vehicles, hitting a dumpster and knocking it into a church in the process. Authorities said he also rammed a police car and hit two other vehicles. The officer was not hurt, likely because of a safety bar on the front of the car, police said.
Boone police said officers tried to use stop sticks to stop the tractor and they flattened its front two tires, with one completely separating from the rim. Later, officers shot out one of the rear tires with a rifle.
Police said Hicks jumped from the tractor, running away with a knife near an elementary school.
‘What is this guy doing?’
The man who posted the video, Mark Denny, spoke with Channel 9′s Dave Faherty.
“I was really confused,” Denny said. “I was like, ‘what is this guy doing? It’s not safe. There’s kids who play up here. There’s a little school right here.’”
Denny said he couldn’t understand why someone would do it.
“Why, why are you going to steal a tractor and drive it on the back roads?” he asked. “It didn’t make any sense to me.”
The police chief told Faherty the decision to shoot out the tire was made after Hicks started going the wrong way on Highway 421, and then toward the school.
“We were very concerned,” Boone Police Chief Andy Le Beau said. “Obviously you’ve seen the tractor. It’s a pretty large tractor, so we were concerned for our citizens.”
In a release Wednesday, police made it clear the rifle fire was directed at the tractor and not at Hicks.
Officers used a Taser to take Hicks into custody, authorities said. He faces multiple charges, including driving while impaired, assault with a deadly weapon on a government official, reckless driving. and felony fleeing to elude arrest.
Hicks was given a $50,000 bond.
The tractor was determined to be stolen, and so additional charges for theft will be forthcoming, police said.
“I fully believe that our officers’ quick actions and professionalism kept anyone from getting injured or killed including and specifically the suspect, who endangered the lives of many in our community,” the chief said in a statement.
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