Mayor and Police Chief Honor Man for Act of Bravery

July 13, 2007
Dwayne Page

Smithville Mayor Taft Hendrixson and Police Chief Tom Stufano honored a man Friday afternoon for his bravery in helping stop a drunk driver from plowing into a crowd during last weekend's Fiddler's Jamboree.

The plaque presented to Chris Walls reads \" Special Thanks to Chris Walls. In appreciation of your bravery and consideration for lives of your fellowman, Chris Walls did risk his own life to stop a drunk driver from plowing into thousands of people at the Smithville Fiddler's Jamboree on July 7th, 2007. Your heroic actions did save the lives of many people. On behalf of the Smithville Police Department and all residents of Smithville, we are grateful for your actions.\"

Chief Stufano also commended Walls for his act of bravery. \"Chris, you were able to prevent something that would have been absolutely catastrophic, not only to the residents of this city, but also to the visitors at the Jamboree. I personally appreciate everything you did out there and the many residents and merchants who were in the direct line of this particular car who came to me shortly thereafter and did identify you as the person who was instrumental in doing this. So again, congratulations and thank you very much.\"

Walls explains how he reacted when he saw the drunk driver heading toward downtown. \"We were just sitting around and enjoying the Jamboree when I heard a lady down the street in a panic, screaming out ‘stop that driver'. Once I saw the driver, I didn't have time to think, I just went over toward him and did what I could. It was only maybe thirty seconds, just an instinct reaction. I jumped in front of the car to try to get him to stop but when I saw that he was not going to respond to that, I went to his driver's side window to try and talk to him, but I didn't have much time because he was closing the distance between himself and the crowd. So I reached in the car and threw it (gear) in park. After that, I just opened the door and kept asking him to get out until help arrived.\"

On Saturday afternoon, July 7th, Chief Stufano says numerous 911 calls were placed simultaneously about a vehicle driving in an erratic manner along Church Street and that this vehicle had hit two other automobiles parked along the roadway.

The vehicle then drove around a barricade and entered a parking lot on Church and 4th Street striking another automobile. The vehicle continued to drive around a second barricade and entered 4th Street heading toward the public square.

Walls saw the vehicle trying to enter the crowded area and he was able to get to the car and pull the keys out of the ignition.

Smithville Police were on the scene immediately and placed into custody 39 year old Robin Howard Russell of 861 Ward Mill Road, Baxter.

Further investigation noted that Russell had been drinking from a gallon bottle of whiskey, which police found opened and in his lap at the time of arrest. A computer check disclosed that Russell had just been released from a neighboring county jail the day before for DUI. Additionally, Russell was driving on a Revoked Driver's License. Charges against him included; DUI (3rd) offense, Reckless Endangerment, Leaving the Scene of an Accident (3 times) and Violation of the Open Container law. Russell could not perform a field sobriety test due to his inebriated state. His bond was set at $49,500.

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