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Updated: Two juveniles charged for throwing rock at deputy’s vehicle

UPDATE 4 p.m.: Two juveniles have been charged for allegedly throwing the rock, Sheriff Derek Robbins confirmed Sunday afternoon.

A Boyle County deputy sheriff suffered minor injuries but could have been killed early Sunday morning when someone allegedly threw a rock through his windshield and into his face while he was driving on Ky. 34.

Now a statewide search is underway to find the person or people who Sheriff Derek Robbins said will likely face charges of felony assault of a law enforcement officer.

Boyle County Sheriff Derek Robbins conducts a news conference Sunday morning after one of his deputies was hit in the face with a rock while responding to a call.

“He didn’t see the rock being thrown; his windshield exploded and it hit him in the face,” Robbins said. “I don’t know if it knocked him unconscious, but it caused him to lose control and he flipped the vehicle multiple times.”

Deputy Phillip Dean was responding to 911 calls about someone throwing rocks while driving along Ky. 34 in north Boyle County. One thrown rock damaged a semi-truck.

“He was probably about a half a mile away from the scene … when an approaching vehicle threw a large rock,” Robbins said.

The rock probably weighs between 6 and 10 pounds, Robbins explained, and was likely traveling in excess of 100 miles per hour upon initial impact, because of the opposing speeds of the two vehicles.

“That heavy a rock, a windshield is not going to — that was just a formality; it was just in the way,” Robbins said. “The rock itself was big enough that if it had hit him in the right spot, it could have killed him. Not to mention the wreck after he flipped from getting hit. So he’s lucky from a lot of different perspectives.”

The wreck occurred in the area of Stony Point Road on Ky. 34, where the westbound lane briefly widens to two lanes. The first emergency tone went out at about 4:50 a.m., said Mike Wilder, Boyle County Emergency Manage director.

A photo of Boyle County Sheriff’s Deputy Phillip Dean, the deputy injured after an unknown vehicle threw a rock through his window.

Dean did not have to be admitted to the hospital and was already home recovering Sunday morning, Wilder said. He has a broken nose and multiple cuts and bruises.

Robbins said Dean’s 2016 Ford Explorer rolled multiple times, traveled through a tree line, possibly skidded on its roof for some distance, and came to rest on its side against a tin shed in a local resident’s front yard. 

“He hollered on the radio to dispatch letting them know he was in an accident but he didn’t know where he was. I’m sure he was stunned,” Robbin said. “They had him call 911, which they did a really good job. They were able to ping his cell phone, his location and he met the responding Danville (Police Department) officers on the road. He was the only deputy we had out at the time, so he really didn’t have any backup with us, but Danville PD — we help each other out and they were really quick.”

Robbins said Dean has worked for the sheriff’s office for about five years; he worked for the Danville Police Department before that and has more than eight years of law enforcement experience.

“He’s tough. He’s been an officer or deputy for quite a while. Obviously he’s never been through anything like this,” Robbins said. “… but it scared him. His initial reaction was he thought he got shot because his windshield just exploded and he didn’t know what happened. That’s how traumatic it was. And then once he stopped rolling over, he said, ‘My first thought was: Hey wait a minute, I’m still alive.'”

Robbins said some witness accounts state the vehicle the rock came from — identified at this point only as a “dark-colored four-door car” — began “circling the area” after causing the wreck.

“I don’t know if (the driver) knew that (he or she) had caused an accident or if (he or she) was continuing to circle the area looking for somebody else to throw a rock at,” Robbins said.

The place Dean’s vehicle landed is not visible from the road, meaning it’s lucky he wasn’t knocked out in the wreck.

“If he would have been knocked unconscious — or if somebody else’s child or family member would have been the victim of that and they were knocked unconscious — you may not find that vehicle until daylight.”

Robbins said deputies and Danville police officers are working together to interview witnesses, track down surveillance video from businesses and homes in Danville that may have captured the suspect’s vehicle and interview anyone who contacts them with potential information.

“We’re getting some really good leads,” he said. “I feel confident that people are going to come forward with information and hopefully, we’ll be able to track these people down.”

Wilder said information about the incident has been shared with many other law enforcement agencies, including Kentucky State Police, and the search for the vehicle and its occupant or occupants can now be considered “statewide.”

Robbins said he doesn’t know what the intent of the person throwing rocks was, but Dean did not have his emergency lights or siren activated when the rock was thrown.

“So I don’t think that a law enforcement officer was specifically targeted,” Robbins said. “My hope is that it was a prank that went too far. I would really like for them to come in and say, ‘Hey, I messed up, we’ve got to figure this out.’ Because if we track them down before they come forward, we’re going to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. We have zero tolerance for that.”

Wilder said anyone with information about the incident should call the Boyle County Sheriff’s Office at (859) 238-1123 or just call 911 and tell a dispatcher.