COLUMBIA, TN – The Daily Herald newspaper published the following front page story today written by Editor Mr. James Bennett:
Grand jury to decide on charges in Walking Horse protest incident
By JAMES BENNETT
A Tennessee Walking Horse protester who says she nearly was run over by a trainer last month will have her case taken before a Maury County grand jury, District Attorney General Brent Cooper said Sunday.
Teresa Bippen, 58, of Hillsboro, Mo., was among animal welfare activists picketing the Spring Jubilee at Maury County Park on May 30 when a truck driven by Jamie Lawrence, 42, veered toward her, according to a Sheriff’s Department report of the incident.
Lawrence, of Vinemont, Ala., and a world champion rider and trainer in Racking Horse competition, was pulled over by a deputy who allowed him to continue with the show. Lawrence was not arrested.
“I motioned to him to bear to the left, and as he came closer to me, I witnessed him cut his truck hard left into the area where Ms. Teresa Bippen was standing,” wrote Sheriff’s Lt. Andy Jackson, who was directing horse trailers and other traffic into the park. “Then he cut his wheels back hard right. I could not tell how close he came to Ms. Bippen.”
Jackson and two Columbia Police officers approached the truck, the report said.
“I asked the driver why in the world would he do that?” Jackson wrote. “He stated that he should not have. I told him to go into the horse area and park, and I would be back there to talk to him.”
Lawrence told Jackson he was watching the deputy wave him over. He said he thought he was getting too close to Bippen and swerved the other way.
Bippen was protesting soring at Walking Horse shows and trying to discourage attendance. Soring is the intentional infliction of pain to horses’ feet and legs to produce an exaggerated gait known as the “Big Lick” to impress judges.
Bippen said Lawrence’s truck came directly at her after she saw him speaking with another protestor, Tara Taylor, about 10 feet away.
“I was surprised that he looked me directly in the eye,” Bippen wrote in a witness statement. “I raised my sign and said, ‘Big Lick, Big Lie’ and ‘Soring is Animal Abuse.’ I heard the motor gun, the vehicle sped up and suddenly turned toward me all at virtually the same time.
“I leaped to my right in order not to be run over, and I was grateful not to be hit. I recollect hearing the gravel crunch and seeing it scatter when the vehicle reached the edge of the road.”
Jackson wrote he visited with Cooper about the incident.
“He told me to present the case to the Maury County grand jury and give them the options of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving and Civil Rights intimidation and let them decide whether to charge him or not,” Jackson wrote.
Lawrence should have been arrested on scene rather than allowed to continue with the show, a spokesman for the protest group All-American Walking Horse Alliance said.
“Putting an innocent lady in fear for her life should not be treated like a speeding ticket, and that is exactly what happened,” said Clant M. Seay.
Another Walking Horse show, originally scheduled for Panama City, Fla., has been moved to Columbia on Oct. 2-3. The group said it will return to protest.
The Daily Herald called Jamie Lawrence Stables on Sunday to ask Lawrence for comment. He had not returned calls as of Sunday night.
Nephew Eugene says journalism and the public’s right to know is a good thing.
Now if only Maury County Sheriff Bucky Lee Lawrence felt the same way.