Impaired Driver Plows Through Rural Cemetery, Highway Patrol Says

SELMA – More than a dozen grave markers were damaged by a suspected impaired driver. The man is facing numerous charges including marijuana possession and assault on emergency personnel.

The State Highway Patrol said the accident happened just after 7:00pm Sunday in the 2100 block of Bizzell Grove Church Road.  Troopers said John Tanner Stevens, 22, of Goldsboro was traveling eastbound on Bizzell Grove Church Road when he crossed the centerline and ran off the roadway on the left.  His car struck a guy wire for a utility pole and continued through the Aycock Cemetery before coming to rest in the edge of a farm field.

First responders were dispatched to the motor vehicle accident. When firefighters arrived on the scene and approached Stevens in his wrecked car, he reportedly began swinging at the firemen and trying to fight them.  Johnston County deputies were requested and arrived to find Stevens had been detained on the ground by firefighters.  When deputies tried to handcuff him he reportedly tried to pull away, while at the same time yelling profanities at first responders, officers and bystanders, including some bystanders with small children.

After being placed inside a patrol car, Stevens reportedly tried to escape from the vehicle. Officers had to place him in leg shackles.   Johnston County EMS arrived and obtained a blood sample from Stevens for law enforcement.  Deputies said they located approximately 12 grams of marijuana inside his vehicle.

Trooper D.J. Hare charged Stevens with driving while impaired and reckless driving.

The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office filed additional charges of assault on emergency personnel, resisting and delaying an officer and possession of marijuana.

The accident also caused a brief power outage in the area.

On Monday, several volunteers went to the cemetery and began up righting some of the headstones.  Even though many of the grave markers were put back in place, several remain damaged and in need of repair.

One of the volunteers was Tony Medlin of Micro. He said several of his family members are buried at Aycock Cemetery.  Medlin said approximately nine small grave markers and 5 large tombstones were damaged. He estimated at least four of the headstones were damaged beyond repair.  Medlin estimated the damage between $15,000 and $20,000.

Stevens, the impaired driving suspect, was not injured in the crash. He was held on a $50,000 bond.