Gainesville man arrested after allegedly attacking former boss on lawn mower
Matthew Barnett, 32, of Gainesville, is scheduled to be arraigned before Circuit Judge Craig Carter Jan. 14, 2020, on a class D felony charge of third-degree assault and a class B-misdemeanor charge of second-degree property damage.
The case stems from a Sept. 14 incident in which Barnett is accused of jumping onto a lawn mower and repeatedly punching the driver, attempting to run the man over with his truck and smashing the man’s weed eater into the ground.
Barnett was arrested on a warrant and released Dec. 18 after he posted the $5,000 cash-only bond.
He could face a jail sentence of up to four years in prison if convicted of the crimes.
According to the probable cause statement filed in the case, at 12:06 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, Ozark County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Urich was informed by the sheriff’s dispatcher that an altercation involving a vehicle and lawn mower had arisen at the storage sheds on Highways 160 and 5 south just west of Gainesville. Urich answered the call and responded to the storage shed, where he met the alleged victim in the case, Larry Meadows.
Urich wrote in his report that when he arrived on scene, Meadows was bleeding from a cut on his left check near his eye and had a swollen, bruised right cheek. Meadows also had a cut on his right hand that was bleeding, the report said.
The victim’s account
Meadows reportedly told the deputy that he was mowing the grass at the storage units when Barnett, an ex-employee of Meadows’ lawn and tree business, drove past the storage sheds heading west in a blue Chevrolet pickup. When Barnett saw Meadows mowing the grass, he slammed on the brakes, bringing the truck to a skidding stop, turned the vehicle around in the roadway and entered the parking lot, Meadows said. Barnett then reportedly got out of the truck, jumped onto the mower with Meadows and began punching him, the statement says. Meadows said he drove the mower in a quick circle, throwing Barnett off the mower and onto the ground.
Barnett reportedly got up and hopped back onto the mower with Meadows and began punching him again. Meadows jerked the mower in a circle again, and Barnett was thrown to the ground a second time.
Meadows told the officer that Barnett then went over to Meadows’ truck, pulled out a weed eater and began smashing it into the ground.
Once the weed eater was broken, Barnett got back into his truck and attempted to run him over with the vehicle, Meadows told the officer. He said he fled from Barnett, but Barnett chased him around the area in the truck three or four times, attempting to run him over.
Meadows said Barnett eventually left the parking lot, drove around the north side of the highway, and entered the lot again, chasing him in an attempt to run him over with the vehicle. Meadows told the officer a witness had watched the whole incident and agreed to fill out a statement at the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department.
Urich then went to Barnett’s house to speak with the suspect. Barnett was outside on the front porch with several other people when Urich arrived, the statement says. He had abrasions on both knees, his back and had a black eye, the statement says.
Urich asked Barnett to speak with him near his vehicle to get him away from the other people at the home, the statement says. When the officer asked Barnett what happened with Meadows, he reportedly told the deputy that Meadows had disrespected his wife, and he said Meadows “needed his [expletive] kicked.”
He then reportedly told the officer, “You better arrest me, because I’m going to do it again.”
Urich placed Barnett in handcuffs and transported him to the Ozark County Jail.
At the jail, Barnett was reportedly read his Miranda rights and agreed to speak with officers. Barnett said he went to confront Meadows about disrespecting his wife when he saw him mowing the area near the storage sheds. Barnett said he turned into the parking lot in order to confront him.
Barnett said Meadows attempted to hit him with the lawn mower he was driving, and that’s when Barnett decided to jump on the mower and begin hitting Meadows. Barnett said Meadows made a tight turn, throwing him off the mower. He said he got back on it, and Meadows threw him off again by turning the mower.
After the second time, Barnett said he took a string trimmer from Meadows’ vehicle and smashed it on the ground. He said he then got into his truck and left. Barnett told the officer at no point did he chase Meadows with his truck or reenter the parking lot from the highway.
A witness account
Barnett was placed in a holding cell, and Urich went to speak with the witness who said she had seen the incident. The woman reportedly said she observed a man fighting with Meadows on his lawn mower. She said she saw him take a weed eater off Meadow’s vehicle and “beat” it on the ground, the statement says. The witness said she parked in an adjacent parking lot and observed the man get into a blue truck and chase Meadows with the vehicle “at least three times around in his truck.”
Urich reportedly returned to the holding cell and told Barnett what the witness said. Barnett then told the officer he had “lunged” at Meadows with the truck and “spun out around him” before he left. Barnett told the officer that he was not trying to run Meadows over with his vehicle.