Kingsport man arrested in fatal DUI crash in Johnson City

Becky Campbell • Mar 5, 2019 at 8:19 PM

A Kingsport man charged with vehicular homicide by intoxication for the death of another driver told Johnson City police officers he drank 12 beers prior to getting behind the wheel of his pickup Monday night, according to court records.

William H. Lawson, 29, 5837 Cochise Trail, Kingsport, was also charged with possession of Suboxone without a prescription, possession of drug paraphernalia and simple assault. The assault charge stemmed from Lawson reportedly spitting on a nurse at Johnson City Medical Center while she was assisting officers as they tried to subdue Lawson when he became combative, according to the warrant filed against Lawson.

Officers responded to the fatal crash just before midnight Monday night on westbound Interstate 26 near mile marker 21.2, just prior to the Mountcastle Drive overpass. Lawson, who was driving a white 2004 Ford F150, rear ended a blue 1997 Honda Civic driven by Raymond Cox, 21, of Johnson City. Traffic had slowed in that area due to a crash that had occurred earlier. First responders were still on the scene of the first crash when the fatal collision occurred.

Police said Cox’s car was propelled down the interstate and into the center cable barriers. Cox was pronounced dead at the scene.

Lawson was taken into custody and officers searched his vehicle where they found a white plastic bottle that contained a red straw with a powdery substance on it and a single pill identified as Suboxone. Sgt. Reggie Sparks, one of the city’s traffic enforcement officers, stated in a court document that he transported Lawson to the parking lot of Captain D’s restaurant so he would have a safe and flat area to conduct a field sobriety test.

When they arrived at that location and Lawson was getting out of the police car, police said he fell face first onto the ground, which scraped his head and caused a small knot to pop up. He was later transported to the hospital to have that injury checked and for a blood draw, which he consented to, according to police.

During the trip to jail, Lawson was able to get his cuffed hands in front of him and began kicking the seats and doors. Lawson was held on $51,000 bond. He was scheduled for arraignment on Wednesday in General Sessions Court.

Sparks stated in his arrest warrant that Lawson’s speech was slurred, he smelled like he’d been drinking and he could not stand or walk unassisted. Lawson was reportedly unable to perform field sobriety tests adequately, police said.

After being taken to the JCMC for treatment of his head injury and the blood draw to test for intoxicants, Lawson was being led to the police cruiser and began to resist, according to the affidavit. Sparks used a one-second burst of pepper spray in an attempt to subdue Lawson, but that didn’t work. Hospital security and staff assisted Sparks in getting Lawson into the police car and during that process Lawson allegedly spat on a nurse.

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