A trucker accused of running vehicles off Interstate 10, leading to five hours of gridlock during negotiations, faces new charges including one that alleges he was driving impaired.
A charge of DUI first offense is the least of legal concerns for Michael Troy Mack, a 33-year-old truck driver said to have threatened law enforcement officers with a machete in Jackson County before he retreated into his disabled 18-wheeler.
The DUI charge is a misdemeanor.
Mack, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, now faces three aggravated assault charges — two filed by the Mississippi Highway Patrol and one from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department. The MHP has also arrested him on a felony pursuit charge.
County Court Judge Mark Watts denied bond on the felonies Thursday. The judge said he believes Mack is a danger to the community, sheriff’s spokeswoman Marcia Hill said.
Authorities have said the series of incidents that started in Mobile County, Alabama, was caused by road rage.
Mack reportedly was hauling a load of paper products for Paschall Truck Lines, based in Murray, Kentucky. Paul Rasmussen, a senior vice president, declined to discuss Mack’s driving record on Thursday or to say how long Mack has worked for the company.
“We are cooperating with local law enforcement,” Rasmussen said.
Several motorists took pictures and video of the 18-wheeler running off the road in Mobile County, weaving in and out of his lane, and running vehicles, including an ambulance, off the interstate.
By the time he finally stopped with two shot-out tires about 19 miles inside Mississippi, he retreated into the cab. Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell said deputies obtained his cellphone number and tried unsuccessfully to get him to give up.
Dozens of law enforcement vehicles had him surrounded and blocked the interstate in all directions, sending frustrated motorists off I-10 at exits to Mississippi 57 and Gautier-Vancleave Road.
All of the windows in the truck’s cab were covered with black blinds, which prevented officers from seeing what was going on inside, state trooper Master Sgt. Chase Elkins said.
Officials said Mack gave up only after a sheriff’s SWAT team shot tear gas and smoke bombs into the truck’s cab. Tear gas and smoke bombs typically leave intended targets with difficulty breathing and watery eyes.
“He was compliant, doing everything he was asked to do,” Elkins said.
“He was cool, calm and collected like it was a Sunday afternoon.”
Deputies first arrested Mack on a felony pursuit charge.
His additional charges in Jackson County include a string of misdemeanors, from reckless driving and littering to disorderly conduct and obstructing traffic. Bonds on those charges total $6,300, the jail docket shows.
The Alabama Highway Patrol will not file charges related to the incidents in Mobile County, Lt. Joe Pigott said.
“The Mobile County Sheriff’s Department is handling the investigation,” Pigott said.
Mobile County’s charges, filed Wednesday, are two counts of attempted second-degree assault, five counts of reckless endangerment and three counts of criminal mischief.
Deputies in Mobile had responded to the Pilot Truck stop on a complaint of a semi-truck intentionally hitting an ambulance, a sheriff’s office news release said. The ambulance crew turned on the ambulance lights and tried to catch up with the driver, but he “became angry and veered towards them, causing damage to the ambulance,” the release said.
The sheriff’s office received three other complaints from drivers who said the truck hit them before entering Mississippi.
Although officers assigned to federal agencies in Mississippi went to the negotiations scene, it doesn’t appear that federal charges will be filed.