By Nathan Baker
Jurors in the Carter County Criminal Courtroom Monday watched videos that took viewers on a high-speed ride through three counties.
The dash-mounted camera showed police cruisers in pursuit of an SUV as it traveled down winding roads, dodged oncoming traffic and came to a stop after losing a tire and spinning out — thanks to a carefully timed maneuver performed by the chasing officer.
But instead of faraway names and places, the names of the roads speeding past on the videos were familiar to the jurors — U.S. Highway 19E, Gap Creek Road, the Erwin Highway — and the man who prosecutors said was behind the wheel of the fleeing vehicle, Travis Grover Richardson, was sitting in the courtroom in front of them.
In the first full day of testimony in Richardson’s trial on a litany of charges, including attempted second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated robbery, felony evading arrest and criminal simulation, Assistant District Attorney Janet Hardin attempted to convince jurors that the frenzied events of the day began when Richardson tried to pass a counterfeit $100 bill at the IGA grocery store formerly located in the Betsytowne Shopping Center in August 2011.
Hardin said Richardson, then 29, convinced 19-year-old cashier Brittany Rice to help him exchange the fake money for real cash, but before he arrived at the store on the pre-determined date she informed her manager of the arrangement, who then called the authorities.
Rice testified that when Elizabethton Police Department Patrol Officer Matt Taylor asked Richardson to step outside to speak about the bill, “it went haywire.”
“He tried to push the cop away and then ran,” Price said of the altercation inside the IGA store.
Taylor, the officer dispatched to the counterfeit call, gave the jurors more detail about the struggle.
“I stood behind him while he was in the checkout for one or two minutes to see what was being said back and forth to the cashier,” he said. “He turned around and saw me, I said ‘I need to speak to you,’ he said ‘What’s this about?’ and I grabbed his arm. That’s when the struggle began.”
Taylor said he and a store manager wrestled Richardson to the floor, but he broke from their grasp.
An attempt to subdue Richardson with a Taser failed when one of the probes missed hitting his body, but a portion of the struggle was captured on the camera embedded in the non-lethal weapon.
Hardin played that video and the video from the store’s surveillance cameras for the jury.
On the Taser’s video, Richardson can be heard yelling an expletive at Taylor when the barb failed to penetrate his skin, then he can be seen on the surveillance video breaking away and running into the store’s automatic sliding doors, knocking them off their tracks in his attempt to flee.