NEW BOSTON, Texas—Jury deliberations are expected to resume Thursday morning at the Bowie County Courthouse in the punishment-only trial of a man who shot a fellow motorist last year on a local highway.
William "Bill" Calvin Crunk, 64, of DeSoto, Texas, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon but asked that a jury decide his punishment. Prosecutors only plea offer to Crunk includes prison time but Crunk can receive probation from a jury if sentenced to 10 or fewer years and if the jury makes such a recommendation. The offense carries a punishment range of two to 20 years in prison.
Crunk's victim, 57-year-old Forcie Wyrick of Magnolia, Ark., testified Wednesday under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp that he has no idea why Crunk fired a round from a .357 revolver at him April 15, 2017, at about 5:30 p.m. on Interstate 30 in Bowie County. Wyrick said he was returning home after dropping his daughter at Love Field in Dallas in a rented red Hyundai Sonata when he realized another driver was parallel to him in the right lane as he traveled in the left.
Wyrick said he thought the man staring at him waved for a moment but then heard a loud pop he at first attributed to the car he was driving.
"That's when the car shook," Wyrick said. "I looked down and there was blood everywhere and I realized, I've just been shot."
Wyrick's left tricep was gouged by the bullet and his rib cage was badly bruised. Had the large caliber bullet not struck the Hyundai's door at the handle before traveling through it and striking Wyrick, the damage to Wyrick's body would have been far more serious or fatal, law enforcement witnesses testified.
In a recording of his 911 call immediately after the shooting, Wyrick tells dispatchers that he has no idea why a random stranger shot him. Wyrick's voice sounds incredulous as he tells the operator he is following a white Kia Soul Suv pulling a flatbed utility trailer.
"We're going almost a 100 miles an hour," Wyrick said.
Wyrick testified that he wanted to stay with Crunk's vehicle until law enforcement arrived because he wanted to know why the man shot him and because he feared he might be facing someone whose intent was to shoot multiple drivers as they sped along in rush hour traffic.
Wyrick said in the 911 recording that Crunk took the 108 exit and nearly struck another car as he ran through a stop sign before getting back onto I-30. Wyrick continued to relay Crunk's location until a Hooks, Texas, patrol car fell into traffic directly behind the Kia.
Wyrick exited the highway and was met by an ambulance at Love's Truck Stop. The deformed bullet which had passed through his car door and wounded him was recovered after it fell from Wyrick's shirt. Wyrick was treated at a Texarkana hospital.
Wyrick said the experience has left him fearful of driving.
"Well after that, mentally, not knowing what's going on, why he shot me. When I ride, when somebody pulls up beside me like that, I'm wondering, are they going to shoot me? I don't go out as much anymore," Wyrick testified.
Wyrick said he reluctantly agreed to testify.
"I'm sitting here in front of this guy who I don't know, who shot me," Wyrick testified. "I don't know what's going to happen as a result of me being here."
Bowie County Sheriff's Office Lt. Todd Fore testified he entered the freeway and got behind Crunk when he spied the Kia being followed by a lone Hooks officer. Because dispatchers had warned the suspect was armed, officers did not initiate a traffic stop until two units were on the scene, Fore said. Fore and the unit from Hooks were joined by Jonathan Matlock who is currently with BCSO but was a Nash, Texas, officer at the time of Crunk's arrest.
Dash camera video from Fore's cruiser was played for the jury Wednesday. The video showed Crunk pulling to the side of the highway and slowing. Fore shouts repeatedly for Crunk to step out of the car and show his hands and then gives the same order using a loud speaker but Crunk remains in the Kia. As the three officers approach with guns drawn, the sound of traffic whizzing by is unmistakable as big rig trucks and passenger vehicles pass.
A .357 revolver with six live rounds and one spent shell casing was collected from the Kia's passenger seat, Fore said. A bottle of liquor was found in the front seat and Crunk smelled of alcohol, Fore and Matlock testified. A fully loaded 9 mm semi-automatic pistol was recovered from the Kia's glove box and a second bottle of alcohol was found in the rear of the Kia.
Fore said Crunk's only statement was that he hadn't shot anybody.
"I informed him he had shot somebody," Fore said. "He was nonchalant, laid back and relaxed, I'd guess you'd call it."
One of two dogs traveling with Crunk jumped out of the Kia and ran into the roadway as Crunk was being cuffed. Crunk can be heard talking to the dogs but never asks about Wyrick's condition or offers to explain the shooting. Bowie County Investigator Chad Ford testified he was nearly struck by a passing motorist as he assisted in Crunk's arrest.
Under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards, Bowie County Investigator David Biggars testified Crunk refused to give a statement after being transported to jail in Texarkana's Bi-State Justice Building. But under questioning from Texarkana lawyer Derric McFarland, Crunk claimed Wyrick was driving aggressively and had cut him off repeatedly over a 30-minute stretch of his drive from DeSoto to Ben Lomond, Ark., where he owns property he hopes to live on in retirement.
Crunk claimed his cell phone battery was dead, he didn't have a working charger and that he felt he had no choice in the moment. Crunk became tearful when he testified that he has a mentally ill wife for whom he is the primary caregiver. Crunk has no prior criminal convictions.
Crisp asked Crunk about his lack of concern for Wyrick during her cross examination.
"When they told you that man had been shot, you started baby talking to your dogs," Crisp said. "Is Forcie Wyrick not as important as your dogs?"
McFarland called several witnesses to testify on Crunk's behalf, including Texarkana, Ark., Mayor Ruth Penney Bell. Bell said she grew up in Ben Lomand and knew Crunk from his visits to his grandparent's farm there. Bell said she was shocked to learn of Crunk's arrest and found it out of character for him.
McFarland asked the jury to sentence Crunk to probation. Richards and Crisp argued that the crime deserves a more severe punishment.
"Even if you buy that stuff he said. Someone cuts you off and you're going to shoot them," Richards said. "The only 911 call made was by Forcie Wyrick."
Richards and Crisp pointed out that if Wyrick had been dangerously and aggressively driving, it is likely others on the road would have called for help as is often the case with reckless drivers.
"I feel like everybody wanted William Crunk to take responsibility for what he did but that's not what we heard," Crisp argued. "This is not a 21-year-old caught with some dope who needs treatment. If you shoot a man while driving down the road in Bowie County you deserve to be in prison."
After hearing closing arguments, the jury was instructed by 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart to let him know if they wanted to deliberate late into the evening Wednesday or return to court Thursday morning to decide Crunk's punishment. The jury elected to take an evening recess and resume deliberations Thursday.