About two hours before Byron “Low Tax” Looper was found dead in a prison cell Wednesday morning, he reportedly assaulted a pregnant female counselor, according to the Chattanooga TFP. An incident report from the Morgan County Correctional Complex reveals what happened in the hours before the death of Looper, who was serving a life sentence in East Tennessee for assassinating his political opponent, Sen. Tommy Burks, in 1998.
The incident report accuses Looper of hitting the counselor, who was 34 weeks pregnant, in the head about 8:55 a.m. Wednesday. Guards responded to the assault and restrained Looper, the report states, “with the least amount of force necessary.”
….The report states that earlier that morning Looper was standing nearby when his counselor and a prison unit manager were talking about a request he had made. That’s when, authorities say, he held his hands out and hit the counselor on both sides of her head, knocking off her glasses.
The report doesn’t specify the request Looper made, but two sources said Looper recently had been told he was going to be placed back in the prison’s general population, and he didn’t want that because he was afraid of being hurt.
Looper, who legally changed his middle name to “Low Tax,” ran against Burks, a popular Democrat, in 1998.
Burks, who had held office in Tennessee for 28 years, was found slumped over in his truck on his farm in Monterey on Oct. 19, 1998, shot near his left eye. Looper was charged in the crime and convicted of first-degree murder.
The Tennessean has a feature story on the recently-enacted state law that increases the penalty for assault when the victim is a health care provider, focused on a nurse who was attacked in 2004. The new statute, passed as HB306 and signed by the governor May 13, takes effect on July 1.
An excerpt: “The law acknowledges our professional role,” said Jill Kinch, president of the Tennessee Nurses Association. “In a way there is a symbolic piece to this. The community is saying, ‘We value you as nurses and we are going to include you with this other profession that has this level of penalty for assault, which is the police officer.’ ”
The fines are not symbolic. People convicted of assaulting health care workers will have to pay up to $5,000 — double the normal fine.
Health care is a dangerous profession. The incidence rate for violence against health care workers is more than triple the rate for all of private industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. From 2003 to 2009, eight nurses were killed on the job in the United States, and 2,050 nonfatal assaults occurred.
News release from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation:
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today released two annual reports that compile crime statistics reported by individual law enforcement agencies through the Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System analyzing the number of reported hate crimes and law enforcement officers killed or assaulted in 2012.
The “Tennessee Hate Crime 2012” report shows a significant increase in the number of bias motivated offenses reported by law enforcement; however, that increase can be attributed to one agency reporting inflated numbers in the category of unknown bias that should have marked as bias- none. The most up-to-date statistics should be reflected atwww.tncrimeonline.com.
Law enforcement officers killed or assaulted (LEOKA) in 2012 increased more than 3% from the previous year. In 2011, 1,826 LEOKA offenses were reported compared with 1,883 in 2012. LEOKA 2012 Highlights
Of the 229 Tennessee agencies who reported LEOKA incidents for 2012, only one, the Memphis Police Department, reported an officer who was feloniously killed in the line of duty.
A total of 1,705 LEOKA incidents were cleared resulting in a 90 percent clearance rate. Eighty-nine percent of those incidents were cleared by arrest.
The most frequently reported weapon type used was personal weapons (hand, fists, feet) at 64 percent.
Firearms were reported being used in offenses committed against officers in nearly 10 percent of the incidents.
Full copies of these reports can be downloaded from the TBI website here. Additional information and updated statistics can be acquired at www.tncrimeonline.com.
Bills approved by both chambers Tuesday will increase the penalty for criminal assaults if the victim is either a firefighter, emergency worker or a health care professional.
The bills touched off considerable debate in the Senate as Republican Sens. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville and Brian Kelsey of Germantown questioned the wisdom of putting some victims on a higher level than others.
Campfield said the legislation violates the principle of “equal protection under the law” and questioned why a person assaulting a pregnant woman should face a lesser penalty than someone assaulting a doctor or fireman.
Proponents noted current law already makes the penalty higher when the victim is a law enforcement officer and said firefighters, emergency personel and doctors or nurses face greater risk of assault than others.
Both bills now go to the governor. The bill on health care provider assaults (HB306) passed 31-1 in the Senate and 63-31 in the House. The bill on firefighters and emergency workers (SB66) was approved 24-2 in the Senate; 93-3 in the House.
The House has approved, 64-31, legislation that increases the penalty for assault when the victim is a health engaged in his or her professional duties.
The bill by Rep. JoAnn Favors, D-Chattanooga, was roundly criticized by some making health care providers a separate and special class of citizen. Favors and others noted that there is already a law making the punishment for assault on a law enforcement officer harsher than for others.
Favors, a nurse, said the bill (HB306) is needed because there has been an increase in workplace violence against doctors, nurses and other health care workers. Nevada has such a law, she said, and such attacks have declined since enactment.
Preventing a repeat of the Connecticut school shootings may be better addressed through mental health services than new gun laws, Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday.
Haslam, questioned by reporters about the murders, also said his administration will hold a conference on school security next month. He said the discussion could include having more people at schools trained in dealing with violent attacks, as proposed by state Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains.
Niceley said he is working on legislation that would require all Tennessee schools to either have a “school resource officer” for security – as most high schools do now — or train one or more staff members in use of firearms and dealing with violent attacks.
Haslam said he was sickened by the Connecticut slayings and expects them to trigger “a national debate (on guns) over the next three or four months.” But he was cautious about saying what his position would be in any such discussions.
“I don’t know that a lot of (gun-related) legislation I’ve seen so far that could have stopped what happened there,” he said. “I don’t know that I see a big need to change things.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that while the crime rate is showing an overall decline in Tennessee, instances of aggravated assault, prescription drug abuse and domestic violence remain major concerns for his administration.
The Republican governor said at a meeting of more than 400 public safety officials that domestic violence accounts for about half of all crimes committed in the state each year.
“If you look at the chart this year in terms of total crime we really show good progress on everything except domestic assault,” Haslam told reporters after speaking to the group.
“We’re already at the bottom end of states in terms of rankings there,” he said. “So we’re going to want to focus that more.”
Haslam this year introduced and signed into law a measure to require mandatory jail time for repeat convictions for domestic violence. He said it’s too soon to tell if the change has made a significant difference, but that there’s reason to be optimistic.
“I’ve got to believe that will have an impact as we move forward,” he said. “It’s a substantial message that if you’re a repeat offender, you’re going to go to jail regardless of who you are.”
The governor said several members of his Cabinet will continue to work with law enforcement to seek ways to reduce violent crimes and drug abuse.
“If you look at the drug-related numbers of those assaults, it’s pretty high number,” he said. “There’s a mental health component for some of those as well.”
Former U.S. Congressional candidate Brad Staats was arrested early on Sunday morning after allegedly slapping his wife during a domestic dispute, reports The City Paper. Staats admitted to police that he “pushed his wife … down onto a bed then left the location,” according to a Metro Nashville Police Department affidavit. The report also indicates that Staats’ wife Bethany called police to their Hermitage home and told police Staats slapped her.
“Ms. Staats did have a red mark on her left cheek consistent with her statement,” the affidavit reads.
The former Republican candidate for Tennessee’s 5th District was booked into Davidson County Jail at 3:39 a.m. Sunday. Staats, 43, was charged with one count of misdemeanor domestic assault, posted a $5,000 bond and was released.
Staats, whose campaign site describes him as a “family matters” conservative, ran against longtime Democratic incumbent Congressman Jim Cooper in November’s election. Cooper won by more than 30 percent of the vote.
A Rhea County Circuit Court jury on Tuesday evening found former state Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, not guilty of assaulting a woman in a wheelchair who supported Cobb’s opponent in the Aug. 2 primary election, reports the Chattanooga TFP. “The verdict speaks for itself,” said Cobb, who previously dismissed the misdemeanor assault charge as “politically motivated.”
The decision came at 6:40 p.m. after about an hour’s deliberation at the historic Rhea County Courthouse in downtown Dayton, Tenn. Cobb turned himself in to the county jail on Oct. 3 after a grand jury indicted him.
According to a Rhea County Sheriff’s Office report, Goins was sitting in her wheelchair at Frazier Elementary School in Dayton, campaigning for Cobb’s opponent, Ron Travis, when Cobb got out of his pickup truck and attempted to knock down a Travis sign.
Goins feared “imminent bodily injury,” the report stated, and thought Cobb was going to hit her after he raised his hand. Cobb, meanwhile, said there was no contact and not even harsh words directed toward Goins.
State Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, called his arrest Tuesday on an assault charge “politically motivated” and predicted it would be “washed away” in court, according to the Times-Free Press. Cobb was arrested in connection with an incident that happened on election day in August.
…”That’s the whole personality of this race that we just ran,” Cobb said. “Lies and mistruths? It was filled with that.”
Cobb is scheduled to appear for a hearing Friday in Rhea County Circuit Court. The crime is a class A misdemeanor.
Mike Taylor, 12th Judicial District attorney general, said he could not discuss details in the investigation, but said the charge was related to an incident at Frazier Elementary School where a voting poll was set up on election day.
The alleged victim and a sheriff’s deputy testified Monday before the grand jury, he said.
The indictment issued Monday by the grand jury states that Cobb assaulted Wanda Sue Goins, causing her to “fear imminent bodily injury” in the incident.
Messages left on Goins’ phone Tuesday were not returned. According to a Rhea County Sheriff’s Department report, Goins was sitting in her wheelchair at Frazier Elementary, campaigning for Cobb’s opponent, Ron Travis, on Aug. 2 when Cobb pulled up in his pickup truck, got out and “attempted to knock down Ron Travis’ sign.”
Cobb reportedly walked back toward his truck, turned around and “started fussing at her, pointing his finger at her about supporting Ron Travis,” the report states.
Cobb then “raised his hand up toward her and it scared her because she thought Jim was going to hit her,” the report states.
Cobb denied allegations there was an assault.
“There was no contact,” he said. “There were never even any harsh words [to] come out of my mouth to that lady.”
Goins also told the deputy Cobb had harassed her on the phone about her political loyalties, the report states.
n Tuesday, Cobb said he was the last to know about the coming criminal charge, and his political opponents celebrated his arrest.
“It was like a bunch of buzzards out there,” Cobb said of activities around the jail while he was being booked. “All the people who were against me were out there driving their vehicles around in circles just laughing and having a big time. But, you know, what goes around comes around.”