Ex-city of Waco employee convicted in assault of police officer gets probation
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A McLennan County jury recommended probation Wednesday for a former city of Waco employee who resisted a police officer’s efforts to arrest him for public intoxication and held a knife to the officer’s throat before other city workers rushed in to help the officer.
Jurors in Waco’s 19th State District Court deliberated about two hours before recommending that Visiting Judge Roy Sparkmen suspend the prison sentence for Ronald Louis Turner and place him on probation. Based on the jury’s verdict, the judge sentenced Turner, 32, to nine years’ probation.
The jury deliberated about an hour and 15 minutes Wednesday before convicting Turner of first-degree felony aggravated assault against a peace officer, but finding him not guilty on a state jail felony charge of attempting to take the officer’s gun.
Turner, who worked for the city Parks and Recreation Department, is a former Marine who has fought a longtime battle with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, testimony from his three-day trial revealed.
Retired Waco police officer Fabian Klecka, who now works part-time for the Crawford Police Department, suffered scrapes to his neck from a knife Turner pulled during the altercation before two other city employees came to his assistance and helped him take Turner into custody in a July 2018 incident outside city-owned maintenance and training facilities on North Fourth Street.
Klecka said he agrees with prosecutor Will Hix, who told the jury that Turner didn’t deserve a life prison term.
“I’m not disappointed,” Klecka said. “I think the defense attorney did good and I think the prosecutors did really well. I haven’t heard why the jury found him not guilty on the second charge, but that is just how juries are. I have no problem with him getting probation. I just hope he complies and I hope he gets the help he needs.”
In a somewhat unusual twist, one of the jurors in the case was McLennan County Court-at-Law Judge Vik Deivanayagam.
Turner’s attorney, Jonathan Sibley, said he was pleased with the outcome of the trial.
“We are pleased with the verdict and thank the jury for taking the time to work through some tough issues,” Sibley said. “I think probation was the right conclusion, and Mr. Turner will take advantage of this second chance he’s been given.”
McLennan County District Attorney Josh Tetens also thanked jurors for their “careful deliberations” and said he respects the verdict.
“We are truly thankful Officer Klecka was not seriously injured or killed when Mr. Turner attacked him and put a knife against his neck,” Tetens said. “We are also grateful for the bystanders that came to our officer’s aid and likely saved his life. Mr. Turner will now be closely monitored by our Community Supervision Department and has now be held accountable for his actions.”
Klecka testified during the punishment phase of the trial that he had been involved in a fatal shooting incident just three months before what could have been his life-or-death struggle with Turner. He said he had an “anxiety attack” about two weeks after the incident with Turner and crashed a patrol car into a building.
He said he thinks the combination of both incidents triggered PTSD-like symptoms and he was taken off patrol duty, took some time off and underwent therapy sessions.
Turner’s supervisor testified he suspected Turner was drunk as workers were clocking out for the day because he was dancing, snatched a hat from the supervisor’s head and would not give it back. He tried to get Turner to submit to alcohol or drug screening, but Turner resisted and started walking to his car. City officials said they were concerned he would injure himself or others if he tried to drive home, so they called for police officers to come take control of the situation.
One city employee testified he tried to keep Turner from leaving long enough for police to arrive, adding that Klecka pulled up in his patrol vehicle in less than a minute.
Klecka said he tried to arrest Turner for public intoxication when Turner tackled him. Klecka said he landed awkwardly, with his arms pinned beneath him. He said Turner placed a knife against his throat and was reaching for the officer’s .40-caliber pistol when Barry Barrington and David Harrison, who works as a nightclub bouncer, rushed in to block Turner from snatching the gun from Klecka’s holster.
In defense punishment testimony, Turner’s parents, Joan and Donald Turner, testified that Turner is the sixth of nine children and has always been a loving, caring son who is very family-oriented. Both said he has sought help for his mental health issues with local agencies over the years, adding that he would have plenty of support should the jury decide to grant his request for probation.
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