One man facing numerous charges including attempted murder, wanton endangerment and Driving Under the Influence said he has a good excuse for leading police officers on a chase and allegedly trying to run one of them over.
Johnny Paul Smith, 23, pleaded not guilty in Knox County District Court on July 23. He said he felt like the victim and claimed police used unnecessary force when attempting to subdue him. Smith said he has suffered from seizures for several years and was having an episode during the 9-minute chase in and outside the city limits of Barbourville.
“The only thing i can remember is getting rammed really hard, on my back,” said Smith.
The 23-year-old said he maintained his innocence.
“I totally feel like I have been taken advantage of because I am sick in a way like that, you know, I can't help it,” said Smith.
Police said Smith led them on a nearly 10 mile chase which started at a safety checkpoint when he allegedly tried to run over three officers. Det. Steve Owens of the Barbourville Police Department said officers fired shots at the vehicle when he attempted to run over a third officer, which is where the attempted murder charge had come from.
Smith said he was having a seizure at the time.
“The one thing I want everybody to understand is that I never had a warrant on me, I never had nothing on me,” said Smith.
“There's absolutely no reason why I wouldn't have stopped if I had been in the right mind.”
Smith said the seizures could last 30 seconds to more than a minute, but his mind “would not be right for a while” afterward.
He said he would have no reason to put his wife’s life or law enforcement officer’s lives in danger.
Smith’s mother Kim said the seizures started happening after a car accident back in 2006 and he has been prescribed medication for the seizures. Smith said he cannot recall much of what happened during the incident.
“I can't put nothing together,” said Smith, referring to his reaction of “coming-to” after the incident. “What's going on? The only thing I know to do is run.”
Police said they do not believe that is true. Det. Steve Owens said he was driving under the influence and he told police he was afraid to pull over because he was driving on a suspended license. Police ended up having to pull him over with a PIT maneuver, a way of staging a controlled wreck to get him off the road.
“Of course without being able to give a certified medical opinion, there is no way, in my opinion that an individual suffering a seizure could operate a vehicle in any type of controlled manner much less at any type of speed or keep it on the road way to lead police officers in a ten mile chase,” said Owens.
Owens said he has seen people have seizures on the road, who typically run off the road.
Smith will be back in court on July 31st for a preliminary hearing. Police said he was on probation for felony charges from 2011 for engaging in organized crime. He has also been convicted of other misdemeanors, but none of those were violent crimes.