A Whitley County Sheriff’s deputy is being credited with saving a Knoxville man and his four-year-old son after the man stopped his vehicle on I-75 early Sunday morning in the roadway without any vehicle lights on.
The driver of the vehicle, Robert Cook, 28, pleaded not guilty Monday afternoon to charges of possession of marijuana, first-degree possession of a controlled substance (meth), tampering with physical evidence, endangering the welfare of a minor, first-degree wanton endangerment, first-degree wanton endangerment of a police officer, and driving on a DUI suspended license.
Whitley District Judge Fred White set a $15,000 cash bond, appointed the public advocate’s office to represent Cook and set a Nov. 28 preliminary hearing in his case.
“Thank the good Lord someone called this in and an angel was there to protect this innocent child until Deputy (Brian) Hensley could arrive. When you think about what could’ve happened,” noted Sheriff Colan Harrell.
About 3:15 a.m., Hensley responded to multiple calls of a potential motorist in need of assistance near the one-mile point on northbound I-75.
Hensley located a 2010 maroon Toyota SUV parked in the left lane without any lights on.
When Hensley activated his blue lights, the male driver reacted by putting his hands out the window and shouting that he was complying, according to a sheriff’s department release.
When Hensley approached the driver’s window, he noted Cook chewing on a green, leafy substance believed to be marijuana, the release stated.
In the passenger’s seat, Hensley observed more marijuana in a glass container that had been dumped in the seat, according to an arrest citation.
Cook appeared to be under the influence and was detained, according to the release.
When Hensley returned to the SUV, he found a four-year-old boy seated in the rear passenger area.
In the floorboard was a white crystal substance that field-tested positive as methamphetamine, the release stated.
The drug was in the floorboard underneath the child’s feet and in between the driver’s seat and console, according to an arrest citation.
Before Hensley could move the vehicle from the roadway, he was nearly struck by passing vehicles.
Cook told police that he has used marijuana and “dabbed,” the release stated.
Police also located dab in the floor underneath the child’s feet, according to another arrest citation.
Dab is an extract of marijuana with a high level of THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana responsible for its intoxicating effects.
Williamsburg Police Officer John Fulton assisted at the scene and transported Cook to the Whitley County Detention Center while Hensley remained with the four-year-old until social services could arrive.
Because methamphetamine had been thrown in the vehicle, both Hensley and the child were exposed to it, according to an arrest citation.
During the wait, Hensley began experiencing physical affects associated with exposure to the drug fentanyl, which is an increasingly dangerous occurrence for first responders, the release noted.
The four-year-old and Hensley were medically evaluated at Jellico Community Hospital, and the child was turned over to the custody of the Department of Community-Based Services.