| By John Howell
For the driver of an 18-wheeler who first attracted attention at Maggie T’s Saturday morning by colliding with a concrete-filled post protecting the fuel pump, the mishap was not his biggest miscalculation.
Later, as arresting officer Scott Cagle transported the driver to the Panola County jail to be held for investigation of firearms and drugs violations, he told the officer, "’Y’all keep telling me I’m in Mississippi; I’m in Tennessee,’" Cagle said he insisted.
The incident was as bizarre as the driver’s miscalculations. Two guys in a late-model Freightliner pulling a flatbed trailer, empty except for the folded tarpaulins strapped onto the bed, pulled off for fuel at the intersection of Interstate 55 and Highway 35. They then drove onto the Maggie T’s lot, circled to the back for access to the series of fuel pumps at the north side of the building.
The truck struck the guard post with enough force to cave in the left corner of the truck’s bumper and to attract the attention an employee inside, who alerted Cagle and Sergeant Kerry Pittman. The driver then "backed up and pulled back," Cagle said, with enough room to clear the guard post on his second try.
"They saw him do it. He ran into one of the poles and pulled back, parked and kind of lurched forward," after they got the truck aligned with the pump, Pittman said.
The officers walked to the truck, if for no other reason than to convey the store policy that drivers aren’t allowed to sleep in trucks on the lot, much less so while their vehicles are parked at the fuel pump.
Pittman said that when his knocking on the cab door aroused the driver aroused sufficiently to open it, he spotted a small plastic bag that contained an apparent drug, giving the officer sufficient probable cause to search the vehicle.
"It was in plain view," Pittman said.
Assistant Police Chief Don Province later said that once the driver had stopped, he apparently "leaned over the steering wheel, passed out."
Province, Police Chief Tony Jones, Detective George Williford and other officers joined Pittman and Cagle at the scene.
The officers said that the drug and the smell of fumes inside the cab appeared to be "crystal meth," the drug methamphetamine hydrochloride.
Users of crystal meth often stay awake for long periods. Pittman said that the two men were possibly coming down from a sustained period of methamphetamine use when they slumped forward in the cab.
"Just imagine him going down I-55, and he’s asleep," Jones said.
The initial search of the truck cab and the two men yielded several small plastic bags that appeared to contain crystal meth, assorted pills, three pistols, a small quantity of marijuana and a roll of cash of sufficient size to fit the "big enough to choke a goat" clich? – about $2,000, Province said later.
The passenger, John Michael Dishroon of Palmer, Tenn., has been charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance, one count of possession of less than one ounce of marijuana and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, according to Province.
Past charges lodged against Dishroon include reckless endangerment with a firearm, possession of a controlled substance, use of firearm in commission of a felony and possession of explosives, Province said. The information about previous charges was obtained on the National Crime Information Computer (NCIC), he added.
The driver, David Levon Byers Jr. of Monteagle, Tenn., has been charged with driving under influence of a controlled substance and two counts of possession of a controlled substance. No prior criminal history was indicated on NCIC for Byers, the assistant chief said.
"He’s not a convicted felon so there wouldn’t be any charge for the guns on him," Province said.
After the initial search of the cab, the truck was pulled to the side of the lot to allow drug dogs to sniff the vehicle. Batesville Police Sgt. Ruby Meyers waited with her newly-acquired dog in her car while state trooper Dennis Darby allowed his dog to sniff the truck from bumper to taillight.
"My dog won’t be certified until April," Meyers said. "It will be his first 18-wheeler."
Darby brought his dog out of his vehicle, let him get acclimated to the surroundings and then brought out the tennis ball that serves as the dog’s reward and incentive to go to work.
Meyers dog barked furiously from inside the vehicle in which he was confined while Darby’s dog worked.
"He hit on that door panel," Darby said when his dog had walked the perimeter of the truck and trailer.
Meyers then brought out her dog which also indicated a "hit" in the same place. The dogs indicated the hit by sitting at the spot, Darby said.
Officers then combed the interior of the cab and sleeping confines of the truck, locating additional pills and tablets that ultimately proved to be an assortment of pain relievers and anti-depressants, Province said.
When officers had searched Dishroon, they found a Walther .380 caliber pistol in his right boot, Province said.
A Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 magnum revolver was found in a zipped case in the cab, and a "Tec-9" was also found in the cab. With the Tec-9 was either a barrel extension or a silencer, Province said.
Province said that BPD officers would contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms whose agents will determine if federal charges are warranted. Dishroon and Byers are held in the Panola County Jail.