KPD: Motorist arrested after threatening public works crew

Rain Smith • May 3, 2013 at 1:45 PM

KINGSPORT — A Kingsport motorist has been arrested after allegedly approaching a public works crew — which he perceived to be blocking his way on a city street — and saying he was "going to start busting some heads."

When later confronted by police the man reportedly warned, "You will have to kill me to take me back to jail," adding that a worker had threatened him with a shovel. He was ultimately arrested without incident and charged with aggravated assault, due to arming himself with a tool during the confrontation with workers.

A report at the Kingsport Police Department says the incident began at approximately 10:10 Tuesday morning. City employees were using a backhoe to clean ditches along a narrow section of Stapleton Drive, temporarily blocking the roadway.

A man who lives on Stapleton Drive, later identified as Thomas P. Willis, 47, attempted to pass though the area in his Dodge pickup. According to statements from public works employees to police, Willis exited his vehicle and immediately started cursing at the workers.

When told they'd clear the way for him to drive through, Willis allegedly reached into his truck and pulled out a "tire tool" — threatening that if they failed to do so he'd "start busting some heads."

The road was cleared and Willis passed, with workers calling police to report what had occurred. Approximately one hour later an officer was dispatched back to the location, with workers saying Willis "came back and started on them again."

An officer located Willis standing at the front door of his residence, 520 Stapleton Drive. He was reportedly "very angry" and claimed, "one of those guys came out of the ditch with a shovel."

According to the arrest record, Willis then told the officer, "You will have to kill me to take me back to jail." He also advised that what he had held in his hand during the confrontation was a stick from under his truck's seat.

Willis was taken into custody without incident, charged with aggravated assault and booked into the city jail.

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