SAN ANGELO, TX — Ronnie Wegner was a little concerned because for days he witnessed a beat up black SUV casing his Grape Creek Neighborhood. Then one day, Grape Creek land owner Ronnie Wegner decided to drive up to the black SUV with “F— the Police” emblazoned on the rear in mailbox letters to find out who this stranger was.
“We have had livestock equipment and vehicles stolen. We even had a shooting up here,” Wegner said, describing the general unease he and his Grape Creek neighbors have experienced for weeks leading up to the confrontation in early April 2022.
Who he found at the helm of the beat-up SUV was Jack Miller, a known troublemaker to whom City Attorney Theresa James agreed to award $100,000 in damages in a settlement as a result of a lawsuit over scuffle Miller had with San Angelo police officers in 2020.
Emboldened with his taxpayer commission forwarded to him by his Dallas attorneys, Miller began calling himself a “police auditor” where he chases police action throughout the area with a cell phone video camera hoping to record another law enforcement mistake for another payday. See the interaction of first responders with Miller at a county fire scene here.
On the day he met Wegner, however, Miller turned his camera on a private citizen. Provoking Wegner, Miller was recording the entire interaction. When he posted the video to his YouTube channel, hundreds of calls lit up the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office dispatch phone lines to complain. Many thought Wegner was a deputy sheriff.
It didn’t take long for Miller to post successive videos shaming Wegner, calling him the ‘Gangsta Grandpa.’ Harassing phone calls, texts and Internet messages were redirected to Wegner and his family. Wegner said some who were incited by Miller’s videos even found his ex-wife and called her!
County Prosecutor Leland Lacy filed charges against Wegner for Class C Assault based upon evidence in Miller’s videos. Lacy claimed that Wegner touched Miller’s cell phone because Wegner reached for Miller’s phone and Wegner broke it. This caused Miller to suffer a scratch on his forehead. Allegedly.
The evidence was tenuous and the action of charging Wegner at all could lead to other landowners in rural areas of the county to be hurt. If Wegner had been convicted, it may have convinced others to be too timid in protecting their property and lives out in the county lest Leland Lacy send them to jail, too.
Wegner was ordered by the court to take an anger management course in return for the case being dismissed. In all, Wegner estimates he spend $1,000 in court and legal fees to clear his name.
Leland Lacy is also prosecuting San Angelo businesswoman Evan Berryhill who faced a similar situation. That is, she is accused of assault — touching the should-be assailant's cell phone —but Berryhill's charges are enhanced by Lacy because the other party is LGBTQ and the charge is considered by Lacy to be a "hate crime." More on the Berryhill case here.