SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Joplin, Mo., man was indicted by a federal grand jury today following a pursuit in which he rammed into a police vehicle.
Michael L. Watson, 37, of Joplin, was charged in a three-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo. Today’s indictment replaces a federal criminal complaint that was filed against Watson on April 13, 2015, and includes additional charges.
Today’s indictment alleges that Watson was in possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute on April 10, 2015. Watson is also charged with one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Watson allegedly possessed a Ruger 9mm semi-automatic pistol on April 10, 2015. Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to be in possession of any firearm or ammunition. Watson has prior felony convictions for assaulting a law enforcement officer, possession of a controlled substance, operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting a lawful stop.
Watson was arrested on April 10, 2015, when a Joplin police officer contacted a vehicle that Watson was driving. The officer initially stopped a man walking out of the Sunrise Inn motel at 3600 Rangline, and the man indicated that he was with the four occupants of a Nissan Sentra that was parked nearby. One of the passengers started to get out of the car, and the officer told him to stay in the vehicle. The man closed the passenger door and Watson, the driver, allegedly fled in the vehicle at a high rate of speed.
According to an affidavit filed in support of the original criminal complaint, the officer returned to his vehicle and began to back up in order to follow the Sentra. Watson drove the Sentra straight into the patrol car at a high rate of speed. The collision with the passenger side of the vehicle caused significant damage. The officer felt his body leave the driver’s seat and fly upward, striking his head on the roof of his patrol vehicle. Watson got out of his car, fell to the ground, then fled on foot. Three passengers also fled on foot, in the opposite direction. The officer pursued Watson, who stumbled and fell to the ground after he jumped over a fence. The officer caught up with him and, while Watson was on the ground, saw the loaded firearm in a holster on Watson’s right side. The officer also found a hard case in Watson’s left front pocket that contained methamphetamine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Dickinson cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Nhan D. Nguyen. It was investigated by the Joplin, Mo., Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.