By Carol Robinson Alabama Media Group, Birmingham
A man’s vacation with his wife took an unexpected turn when he saw a Tennessee state trooper being attacked on the side of an interstate and stopped to help.
The ordeal began just before 10 a.m. on Nov. 25 and ended with a juvenile rape suspect handcuffed and jailed.
Ken McFarland, the 55-year-old owner of City Auto Sales in Hueytown, and his wife, Sherri, were driving back from Pigeon Forge that morning when they got to Cleveland, Tenn. A wreck on the interstate had slowed traffic, and that’s when McFarland noticed a state trooper had pulled over a car and was in a struggle with a male.
“They were in a pretty serious fight,’’ McFarland said. “I just felt compelled to get out.”
By the time McFarland jumped into the fray, the trooper and the suspect were both on the ground and in a muddy ditch about 10 feet off the roadway. “The trooper was beaten from the top of his head,’’ McFarland said. “I was able to get his (the suspect’s) left arm out and slow him down a bit.”
“The trooper then put (the teen’s) head in the mud, but when he let him up for air, he was still combative,’’ he said. The trooper’s radio was caked in mud, but he was still able to push his emergency button for backup.
A second trooper arrived and, together, the trio got the situation under control. “They all moved up toward the patrol car, and I stopped for a minute and tried to figure out what had happened,’’ McFarland said. “I was confused about the trooper bleeding. I really didn’t get an answer for three weeks.”
Just last week, McFarland was honored by Tennessee’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security for his actions that day. It was then he learned more details about what had gone down.
Both troopers had pulled over a vehicle for speeding, but one of them got called away to the nearby wreck. A female was driving the suspect vehicle. The trooper quickly figured out the male passenger, 17, had an outstanding felony warrant for rape. As he got the teen out of the vehicle, the fight erupted.
That’s when McFarland stepped in.
He said he really didn’t think about it – he just knew what he had to do. Afterward, he recalled a video he had recently watched online that showed a Texas lawman attacked by a group of people. They took him to the ground and shot and killed him.
“I don’t know if that was part of it or not, I just knew he was in trouble,’’ McFarland said. “I shared that story with the state trooper I helped and he said, “I’ve watched that video probably 20 times.”
McFarland said he was honored by the ceremony and the plaque presented to him. “They were very kind to me,’’ he said. “It made me feel appreciated.”
He’s even more thankful, however, for the way things turned out. “I’m just glad that everybody got to go home,’’ he said. “I realized during the whole process how things can turn really bad really fast.”
McFarland said he hasn’t spent much time thinking about the danger he put himself in, or other what-ifs. “My wife and I talked about that,’’ he said. “I couldn’t have driven past that and not stopped and then gotten home to find out something terrible happened.”
“We’re here for a reason,’’ he said. “You take life as it comes.”
©2018 Alabama Media Group, Birmingham