(WBIR-Knoxville) The truck driver who slammed into a state trooper's cruiser last year has pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was granted probation, with the blessing of the injured officer.
In March 2012, Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Lowell Russell was parked on the side of I-40 in West Knoxville when the truck crashed into him, setting the car on fire.
Investigators said the truck's driver, Eric Dewayne Lewis, had fallen asleep at the wheel. Lewis and others at the scene pulled Russell from his burning patrol car after the accident.
In February, Lewis was charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving and failure to drive in a single lane. On Monday, he entered a plea to reckless endangerment in exchange for one year of unsupervised probation. The other charges were dropped.
Sgt. Russell was severely injured in the accident, but has made great strides toward recovery. He told 10News in June that he still goes to therapy five days a week to rehab his injuries.
"Today I'm feeling pretty good," Sgt. Russell said Monday afternoon. "I have days that are good and days that are bad. Overall, I'm having more good days than bad now."
In his victim impact statement, Sgt. Russell said he had no objections to Lewis being granted probation. He said he has "no animosity or hard feelings" toward Lewis and did not believe "incarcerating him would accomplish anything."
"As long as we can learn a lesson from it and move on, I think that gets the job done," he said.
He told Lewis he forgives him, and hopes "you will use the rest of your life being productive and live the kind of life that would make your parents proud and that pleases God."
Sgt. Russell also encouraged Lewis to volunteer his time to help disabled veterans, veterans groups, or other charities or volunteer groups.
He said he will continue with therapy, and hopes to return to work someday. Sgt. Russell also thanked everyone who has shown him support during the difficult year.
"I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for the prayers people have given me over the year and a half, and I can't thank them enough for the prayers."