A Morgan County deputy last week was assaulted by a Hartselle man who even after being handcuffed began banging his head on a patrol vehicle, and other deputies had a Trinity man attempt to run them off the interstate, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
“The biggest takeaway from both events is it’s a reminder of what can happen. A lot of times here in Morgan County we’ve been fortunate, with no major incidents, but it’s a reminder that anything can happen at any time,” said Mike Swafford, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office.
In both cases, a deputy initiating a traffic stop received assistance after requesting backup.
“In both of those incidents there was that second deputy there, arriving on the scene quickly, that really changed what could have happened,” Swafford said. “It increases the camaraderie.”
The suspects in both incidents were charged with resisting arrest, along with numerous other charges.
Lonnie Ray Laningham, 43, of 119 Pike St. S.E. in Hartselle, was also charged with felony assault on a law enforcement officer, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct and two misdemeanor traffic offenses that triggered the traffic stop, according to court records.
Willie Franklin Sapp, 39, 236 County Road 299 of Trinity, was charged with misdemeanor attempting to elude and possession of drug paraphernalia, in addition to the resisting arrest charge.
Laningham, who was driving a 2018 Toyota Camry, was initially pulled over Wednesday at 1:21 a.m. when a deputy witnessed him driving around the lowered arms of the railroad crossing in downtown Hartselle near Alabama 36 and Railroad Street Northwest, according to the traffic ticket.
The stop quickly turned violent, according to deputies. After Deputy Frank Anderson returned to his patrol car to verify Laningham’s identification, and after the deputy requested backup, Laningham left his vehicle and refused to return to his car, according to the Sheriff’s Office and court records.
Deputy Andrew Ramey arrived to assist Anderson, but the incident “became a physical struggle/altercation between deputies after trying to place Lonnie Laningham in handcuffs and detain him. Deputies ended up on the ground and were able to place Laningham in cuffs,” according to an affidavit by Investigator John Dickson.
That did not end the encounter, or the charges.
While handcuffed, Laningham saw that a deputy’s body camera had fallen to the ground and, according to an affidavit by Ramey, intentionally stomped on it.
Laningham “also slammed his head on the hood of the patrol vehicle multiple times, causing superficial damage to the patrol car,” Ramey wrote in the affidavit charging Laningham with misdemeanor criminal mischief.
Problems continued, as Laningham collected his first felony charge of the incident.
“As Deputy Ramey was placing (Laningham) into his patrol unit, the suspect turned over on his back and started to kick Deputy Ramey in the chest and neck area, causing injury,” Dickson wrote in the document charging the suspect with assaulting a law enforcement officer, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
“The deputy subdued the subject with OC spray as he continued to spit on and kick the windows while yelling at and threatening the deputies,” according to a statement by the Sheriff’s Office.
Ramey “recuperated and has returned to duty expecting a full recovery,” according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Laningham was charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, because he “created a public disturbance by yelling, screaming, cussing, threatening and assaulting deputies to the extent of making residents come outside of their homes” after 1 a.m.
Laningham was released Thursday morning after posting $4,000 bail, according to jail records.
On Friday, two days after the arrest of Laningham, deputies found themselves in another harrowing encounter, according to affidavits filed in Morgan County District Court.
Deputy Jonathon Wynne attempted to initiate a traffic stop when Sapp failed to signal while taking Exit 322 onto Interstate 65 southbound, at Falkville. According to Wynne’s affidavit, Sapp failed to respond to lights or sirens and proceeded to I-65 southbound.
Sapp swerved back and forth on the southbound lanes in an effort to elude Wynne, who put out a call for assistance in the vehicle pursuit, according to the affidavit. Deputy Mike Whalen pulled in front of Sapp while Wynne remained behind him.
“At that time the vehicle slammed on his brakes and made a hard left turn and crossed over the median into the I-65 northbound lane,” Wynne wrote. “The vehicle began to head north on I-65 and continued to swerve in and out of lanes trying to run both deputies off the highway.”
Sapp then took exit 322 and drove about 2 miles on Morgan County 55 before coming to a stop, with patrol cars blocking him in. The encounter did not end there, according to court documents.
Wynne said he and Whalen gave verbal commands for Sapp to exit his car, to no avail.
Wynne said he then tried to assist Sapp out of the vehicle.
”At that time while (the suspect was) fighting with Deputy Wynne, Deputy Whalen assisted by utilizing his X26 Taser,” Wynne wrote, and after several more commands that he show his hands and exit the vehicle, Sapp was detained.
An ambulance was called to remove the Taser probe from Sapp, but Wynne wrote that there were no other injuries.
Sapp remained in Morgan County Jail with bail set at $900 on Monday, according to court records.