Waco, TexasKWTX)- On Wednesday, a McLennan County jury recommended probation to a former Waco City employee who resisted a police officer’s attempts to arrest him for drunkenness in a public place and held a knife to the officer’s throat before other city workers rushed to his aid.
Jurors in Waco’s 19th District Court deliberated for about two hours before recommending to guest judge Roy Sparkman that Ronald Louis Turner’s jail sentence be suspended and placed on probation. Based on the jury’s verdict, the judge sentenced 32-year-old Turner to nine years probation.
The jury deliberated for about an hour and 15 minutes Wednesday before finding Turner guilty of aggravated first-degree assault on a peace officer, but found him not guilty of a felony charge in a state prison for attempting to obtain an officer’s weapon.
Turner, who worked for the city’s parks and recreation department, is a former Marine who has long struggled with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, his three-day trial testimony revealed.
Retired Waco police officer Fabian Kleka, who now works part-time with the Crawford Police Department, suffered scratches on his neck from a knife Turner pulled during an argument before two other city employees came to his aid and helped take Turner into custody. July 2018 incident near city-owned maintenance and training facilities on North Fourth Street.
Kleka said he agreed with prosecutor Will Hicks, who told jurors that Turner did not deserve a life sentence.
“I’m not disappointed,” Kletska said. “I think the defender did a good job and I think the prosecutors did a very good job. I didn’t hear why the jury found him not guilty on the second charge, but that’s the way the jury is. I have no problem getting him on 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 Judge Vic 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 resolve some of the difficult issues,” Sibley said. “I think probation was the right decision and Mr. Turner will take advantage of this second chance he was given.”
McLennan County District Attorney Josh Tetens also thanked the jury for their “thorough deliberations” and said he respected the verdict.
“We are sincerely grateful to Officer Kleke, who was not seriously injured or killed when Mr. Turner attacked him and put a knife to his neck,” Tetens said. “We are also grateful to the eyewitnesses who came to the aid of our officer and probably saved his life. Mr. Turner will now be under the close supervision of our public oversight department and will now be held accountable for his actions.”
Kleka testified at the punishment stage in court that he was involved in a fatal shooting incident just three months prior to what could have been his life-and-death fight with Turner. He said that about two weeks after the Turner incident, he had a “panic attack” and crashed a patrol car into a building.
He said he believed the combination of both incidents caused symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress, and he was removed from patrol, took time off and received therapy sessions.
Turner’s boss testified that he suspected Turner was drunk as the workers were away during the day because he was dancing, ripped the boss’s hat off and didn’t want to return it. He tried to get Turner to pass an alcohol or drug test, but Turner resisted and went to his car. City officials said they were concerned he could injure himself or others if he tried to drive home, so they urged police to bring the situation under control.
One city employee testified that he tried to keep Turner from leaving until the police arrived, adding that Kleka arrived in his squad car in less than a minute.
Kleka said he was trying to arrest Turner for public intoxication when Turner grabbed him. Kleka said he landed awkwardly, his hands clasped under him. He said that Turner held a knife to his throat and was reaching for a .40 officer’s pistol when Barry Barrington and David Harrison, a nightclub bouncer, rushed in to stop Turner from drawing the pistol from Clecky’s holster.
In the punishment defense 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 had sought help for his mental health issues from local agencies over the years, adding that he would have plenty of support if the jury decided to grant his request for probation.
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