A man pleaded guilty last week to stealing an ATV from a Duncannon Lane farm on Dec. 27, running over a farm worker and causing a Richmond police officer to wreck his cruiser.

Walter Franklin Smith, 35, originally was charged with second-degree assault, theft by unlawful taking, first-degree fleeing or evading police, nine counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, first-degree criminal mischief and second-degree persistent felony offender.

An accomplice in the incident, Ernest Wagers, allegedly waited in a Jeep pickup truck intending to load the ATV onto the vehicle.

Smith pleaded guilty to amended charges and will face five years in prison. Wagers pleaded guilty to theft by unlawful taking and likely will receive a one-year sentence. A fleeing and evading charge against Wagers was dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Police said a farm worker saw Smith, who was on parole for a cocaine trafficking offense when he attempted to take the ATV, get on the ATV and attempt to drive off.

The worker called 911 and ran to close a fence gate to keep Smith from leaving the property, testified RPD  Officer Daniel Ellis in district court.

Smith apparently rammed the gate, pushing it open and knocking the farm worker to the ground, running over his left arm.

Officers chased Smith, who turned in front of one of the officers and drove across a lane in which one of the other officers was driving at a high rate of speed.

To avoid hitting Smith, the officer diverted the cruiser and it spun out of control, spinning around at least twice before slamming into a guardrail, Ellis testified.

The crash caused about $5,000 in damage to the cruiser.

Smith continued to evade police, and caused minor damage to a Kentucky State Police cruiser before going into a deep ditch on Golden Leaf Boulevard and catapulting over a fence, police said.

He continued to flee on foot, but two troopers ran after him for about 150 feet, when he stopped but refused to obey their commands to lie on the ground, police said.

The troopers forced him down and took him into custody.

As he pleaded guilty Thursday in Madison Circuit Court, Smith told Judge Jean Chenault Logue that on Dec. 27, he “went out to a friend’s house to do some trading.” The friend was not home, so Smith “got his four-wheeler out and took it on a joyride.”

He said he did not mean to strike the farm worker with the ATV.

“I tried to stop, but couldn’t,” he said, adding that the area was slippery.

When he saw police, he “got spooked and took off,” he told Logue.

As part of his agreement, some of Smith’s wanton endangerment charges were merged.

Smith’s attorney, Valetta Browne, told Logue that while Smith had been in the Madison County Detention Center, he had received his GED.

“It took him two weeks to complete his GED,” Browne said, adding that Smith had been featured on the front page of the Richmond Register in a story about GED classes at the jail.

Smith had been out of school for 19 years when he received the GED.

“Bless your heart, that’s really something,” Logue said to Smith. “That’s something to be proud of.”

Logue also encouraged Smith to seek higher education when his jail sentence is up.

He said he may go to college.

Smith is scheduled to be sentenced in this case on July 14.

He is expected to plead guilty Friday in another case where he is charged with first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance and second-degree persistent felony offender.

Lorie Love Hailey can be reached at editor@richmondregister.com or 624-6690.

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