Suspect No Stranger To Cops
Bridgewater Man Has Long Rap Sheet — And One Failed Bid For Rockingham Sheriff
Posted: December 3, 2012
HARRISONBURG — Thomas Harrison Tyler once had ambitions to be sheriff of Rockingham County.
His experience with law enforcement, though, isn’t exactly the sort of stuff that would woo many voters.
When he tried to run against former Sheriff Don Farley nine years ago, he’d already been convicted of striking a police car during a chase, harassing 911 operators and other crimes.
Regardless, Tyler — a Bridgewater man in whose home police discovered more than 100 pot plants last week while investigating him for an alleged abduction — sought to challenge Farley in the 2003 election but did not qualify because he did not file all of the necessary paperwork.
The failed candidacy is just one part of the 61-year-old’s colorful past.
Daily News-Record archives and court records show a history of sometimes bizarre and, on at least one occasion, dangerous run-ins between local police and Tyler, who is being held at the Rockingham County Jail without bond on abduction and assault charges.
It includes an unsuccessful, multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Farley and other sheriff’s office employees that accused police of burglarizing his property in the past, and a police chase in Dayton nearly 20 years ago during which Tyler was accused of ramming a cruiser.
Yet, through it all, Tyler has never been convicted of a felony in Rockingham County.
Most recently, he was arrested Nov. 16 after an acquaintance accused him of holding her against her will.
Police investigating the case searched his home at 106 S. Sandstone Lane, Bridgewater, on Wednesday and found 110 marijuana plants growing there, in addition to cultivation equipment and other paraphernalia.
Police estimated the value of the drugs they seized at more than $330,000. Drug charges are pending.
Three days after filing initial paperwork to run for sheriff in April 2003, Tyler was sentenced to a year in jail for making annoying phone calls to 911 in which he referred to officers as “a pack of pigs.”
That criminal case started on Nov. 30, 2001, after a dispute with a sheriff’s deputy.
Tyler called 911 that day 14 times and berated operators, who asked him not to use the emergency line to complain about police conduct.
“You put someone on the [expletive] phone right now, or I’ll have your [expletive],” he told a dispatcher, according to DN-R archives.
The dispute with the deputy and 911 calls prompted Tyler, living in Harrisonburg at the time, to sue the sheriff’s office, seeking $47.5 million.
He lost the suit, but did find success in the courtroom by getting the most serious charges he’s faced in the area dropped or reduced.
On June 22, 1995, he led police on a chase in which he tried to run two law enforcement officers off the road and struck a Virginia State Police cruiser.
Tyler, who lived in Pleasant Valley at the time, reportedly tried to drive his truck into former Dayton Police Chief Mike Michael’s car.
After state police joined in the chase, Tyler struck a trooper’s car and finally stopped abruptly, causing the trooper’s car to hit his truck.
He was subsequently indicted in Rockingham County Circuit Court on two counts of felonious assault on a police officer and felonious destruction of state property. Upon his conviction, the jury dropped one of the assault charges and reduced the other to a misdemeanor, while the felony property damage charge was reduced to a misdemeanor.
Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or firstname.lastname@example.org