Man shot by bear hunters rips grand jury decision
By J.J. KINDRED | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ronnie Summey is disappointed in the Blount County judicial system.
After learning Sept. 10 that a Blount County grand jury had cleared a father and son who allegedly shot him in a hunting accident on Dec. 3 last year by returning two no bills, Summey was speechless.
Donnie Ray Radford, 60, Allegheny Loop Road, Maryville, and his son, Derek Ray Radford, 33, Old Railroad Bed Road, Maryville, were charged with reckless endangerment on Dec. 12 last year after the accident.
Arrest warrants said the Radfords shot at a black bear that was treed by dogs during a bear hunt near Calderwood Reservoir. Calderwood Highway was directly behind the tree that the bear was in. Summey and other hunters were standing along the highway.
Summey, 59, a former Maryville High School track coach and former Sequoyah High School head football coach, was reportedly hit in the groin area by one of the slugs from either Donnie Redford’s 12-gauge shotgun or Derek Radford’s .44-caliber Magnum rifle, which were fired toward the highway, according to the warrants.
Law enforcement located shell casings believed to be from the shotgun and rifle in the area.
The reckless endangerment charges were “an E felony that can result in prison time of one to two years,” according to the Blount County District Attorney’s office.
“Basically, I’m very, very frustrated,” Summey said during a recent interview with The Daily Times, expressing his displeasure with the grand jury results.
“I was bear hunting on Dec. 3 on a Saturday morning and a friend brought me back in my truck. We were out there on ‘the Dragon’ around the curve and there’s some commotion going on like it was in a car wreck. We stopped and we were standing in the road and were there for about 10-15 minutes, and these people were shooting at a bear, and the next thing I realized, I was shot in the groin area.
“My friend got me off the mountain to a country store, and the ambulance took me to the UT Medical Center,” he said.
Didn’t want plea
Summey said he was in the hospital for a few days and needed surgery and was recuperating. The first hearing was held on Jan. 27 in Blount County General Sessions Court in front of Judge Michael Gallegos, with the charges being addressed and another hearing scheduled for the Radfords to appoint attorneys.
Another hearing was held on April 13, where Summey retained Blount County Assistant District Attorney Shari Tayloe.
“I was the victim,” Summey said. “I wanted to pursue this in the courts. After they retained counsel, and after two to three hearings, Judge Gallegos heard these cases and the debate. The defense lawyers wanted to go through the TBI and see if they were eligible for judicial diversion. Their lawyers came to her and wanted to make a plea. The plea was put on the table, and they agreed to one year of revocation of their hunting license, and they agreed to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses at $3,000, and it could be more than that.
“I didn’t want the plea because I kept coming back saying I was the victim, and I didn’t want these characters spanked on the hand,” Summey continued. “So, they offered the plea, and I was encouraged to take it and refused. I stood by my position.”
Summey said that he told Blount County District Attorney Mike Flynn that he wanted to pursue the matter in court.
Roll of the dice
“I want these guys to pay for what they did and their reckless behavior,” he said. “(Flynn and Tayloe) did advise me about the possible scenarios if I didn’t accept the plea deal. They explained to me it’s a roll of the dice.
“I had the mind-set that was I wanted these people to pay. I was willing to put my faith in the Blount County judicial system and the grand jury. Apparently my decision to pursue this through the judicial system and the grand jury was a grave mistake.”
Summey explained that during the grand jury’s decision on Sept. 10, most of the evidence was presented by Clint Smith, an officer with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). Smith declined to comment on the case when contacted by The Daily Times.
“Common sense tells me coming off a plea deal that they were willing to step up to the plate and take responsibility, and admit guilt for their carelessness,” Summey said. “But apparently the grand jury said, ‘No, you guys just live your lives and we’ll just move on to the next case.’
“This ruling, in my opinion, sends a terrible message to the agents of the TWRA, as well as law enforcement,” Summey continued. “These people give hunters a bad name and put them in a false light. At this point in time, I will absorb my out-of-pocket money and deal with the long-term effects of this injury, while these two individuals are free to hunt and go about their daily lives with absolutely no punishment from the Blount County judicial system.”
May file suit
Summey said he is heavily leaning toward filing a civil suit.
“Only time will tell,” he said. “This thought came to my mind. If there was a VIP that suffered the same kind of injury that I did, would the grand jury have come up with the same ruling? I think not.
“For those people who might say, wrong place wrong time, I would ask for them to look at it from my point of view. There are people who couldn’t care less about what happened, but if they were in my shoes they would have similar feelings like I do. I want these guys to be held accountable.”
Flynn said Wednesday that he has had discussions with Summey to get a better understanding of why the grand jury made its decision.
“He didn’t understand what a grand jury does,” Flynn said. “The officer presents testimony, and the defendants and the attorney weren’t there and judge wasn’t there. The officer presented the evidence, answered questions and the grand jury deliberates and votes. They are not allowed to tell, but it takes 12 votes to return an indictment, and apparently there weren’t 12 votes.
“My guess would be legally the Radfords were charged with reckless endangerment, but if they acted recklessly, it was a question of whether they were reckless or negligent,” Flynn continued. “If they were negligent, it’s not a criminal case. The grand jury would have to find they acted recklessly. They obviously didn’t.”
Several phone calls to the Radfords for comment went unreturned. In the meantime, Summey said as the result of his injuries he has some disability, but it hasn’t halted him in his everyday life.
“I am walking and I am hunting again,” he said. “There could be some long-term damage, I don’t know. But the bottom line is there’s no accountability. I have a major problem with that and I am disappointed in the judicial system.”