John “Tom” Vincent and his children were travelling home from a middle school ballgame on Monday night when the unthinkable happened.
They could not have known at the time that they were about to encounter an intoxicated driver who would threaten many lives, including their own, and that Vincent would end the escapade by pulling out the gun tucked away in his glove box.
As the Brownsville family reached the intersection of Annetta Road and McGrew Church Road that night, Vincent says their truck met another vehicle, a 1997 Pontiac Sunfire, in their lane.
“We hit the brakes hard and hit the ditch,” Vincent recalled, remembering the screams of his 10 year-old daughter in the backseat.
He said that he quickly pulled back onto the road and into the parking lot of Ralph’s Market in Annetta, where he stopped to check on his daughter and 13-year-old son.
Before Vincent could make another move, he heard someone in the parking lot yelling “Look out.”
“I looked out the window and [the Sunfire] was coming at us through the parking lot,” Vincent said, “I told the kids he was going to hit us and I grabbed my gun out of the glove box. We all braced, and then he slammed us so hard he broke the wheel off my front axle.”
Vincent quickly checked his children again and found that, remarkably, they were uninjured.
At this point, he knew he had to act quickly to stop any further destruction.
“My door wouldn’t open,” Vincent said, “so I climbed out the window after I made sure my kids were alright.”
He stopped the driver of the Sunfire and explained that he “basically held him there at gunpoint until [Deputy Buck Meredith] got there.”
As it turns out, Vincent, a Brownsville insurance agent, is no stranger to apprehending criminals. “I was a metro police officer in Nashville for years,” he explained.
When asked if his law enforcement history had an effect on his actions Monday night, he said without hesitation, “absolutely.”
“Once you have that training, you almost have new instincts, and you just do what needs to be done.”
Vincent remained in contact with E911-Dispatch until he was relieved by Meredith, with the Grayson County Sheriff’s Department.
“Dispatch gave me a clothing description and physical description of Vincent so I knew what to look for,” Meredith explained, “and I told dispatch to advise Vincent that once I got there, he needed to put his firearm away.”
Meredith arrested the driver of the Sunfire, 34-year-old Troy Joseph Toms, of Ambassador Shores Road, in Grayson County.
Meredith explained that Vincent was not Toms’ first victim of the night. Prior to running into Vincent’s family, Toms is reported to have run over the Annetta Fire Department sign as he turned from Dickeys Mill Road onto Annetta Road.
Next, according to Meredith, Toms pulled into Ralph’s Market, striking the gas pumps. Both the sign and pumps were “destroyed,” Meredith said.
After damaging the pumps, witnesses said that Toms got into a verbal altercation with three juveniles in the parking lot of Ralph’s.
“One of the juveniles got back into his own vehicle and tried to move it,” Meredith said, “Toms got back into the car and struck his vehicle at least three times.”
It was at this point, according to Meredith, that Toms left Ralph’s Market. He returned after running Vincent’s truck off of the roadway.
Meredith, who was assisted by local volunteer firefighters, said that Toms appeared to be “heavily intoxicated and possibly under the influence of drugs” when he reached the scene.
“My opinion,” he said, “is that Vincent was stopping any further acts of violence by holding Toms at gunpoint.”
As for Vincent, he said that his family was physically uninjured, though the trauma lives on for his children. Of his daughter, he said, “she still talks about it every day.”