Tag Archives: law enforcement

Jackson man charged with murder of TBI agent

News release from TBI
JACKSON – Special Agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation have arrested and charged a Jackson man in connection to the shooting death Tuesday afternoon of a TBI Special Agent during the course of an ongoing drug investigation.

Preliminary information indicates Special Agent De’Greaun Frazier was one of several agents working alongside the Metropolitan Narcotics Task Force during a controlled buy Tuesday around 2:00 PM in a vehicle in the area of Brianfield Cove. During the exchange, a subject in the backseat of the car, identified as Brenden Tyler Burns, whom the Agent met for the purposes of purchasing illicit drugs, produced a firearm in an attempt to rob the Agent and an informant sitting in the front seat. During the exchange, Burns fired at least once, striking Agent Frazier, who subsequently died at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital.

Shortly after the shooting, law enforcement officers apprehended Burns (DOB 3-10-93) a short distance away in the area of Tinker Hill Cove. This morning, TBI Agents charged him with one count of Murder in the Perpetration of Attempted Aggravated Robbery. He is currently being held in the Madison County Jail without bond.

TBI agent shot to death in Jackson

JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation special agent was shot to death Tuesday during an undercover drug investigation in West Tennessee, the agency said.

Special Agent De’Greaun Frazier, 35, was working with other agents and narcotics officers on a drug investigation when he met a person for a controlled buy in a car in Jackson, TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said in a news release.

The person that Frazier met Tuesday afternoon pulled out a firearm in an apparent robbery attempt and fired at least once, hitting the agent, TBI Director Mark Gwyn said.

Frazier died later at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital.

He was the first agent in TBI history to die in the line of duty.
Continue reading

THP officer fined $25 after third wreck in two years

A Tennessee Highway Patrol officer involved in two previous accidents — and suspended three days for “unbecoming” conduct — has been fined $25 after being found guilty of failing to use due care in a Kingsport crash, reports the Kingsport Times-News.

Ashlee Hill, 31, of Kingsport, has been employed by the THP since February of 2014. According to Megan Buell, director of communications for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Hill is currently “working in a non-law enforcement capacity” at the THP’s Fall Branch headquarters.

The Kingsport wreck occurred shortly before 6 p.m. on April 28 in the 2700 block of John B. Dennis Highway. A crash report from the THP states that Hill “attempted to pull from the right lane and make a left turn to cross a paved median.”

While doing so, Hill drove her Ford Crown Victoria “into the pathway” of a northbound 1999 Saturn. Hill’s vehicle was T-boned in the driver’s side, leading to her being transported to a local hospital for overnight observation.

Following a THP investigation, Hill was cited for failure to use due care, failure to yield and driving in the improper lane. In her Tuesday appearance in Kingsport court, Judge Ray Conkin found Hill guilty on the due care charge and issued a $25 fine. The other two offenses were dismissed.

Documents obtained through a records request with the Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office show that in the past two years, Hill has been suspended on two occasions and has received multiple warnings for other incidents.

According to a Tennessee Department of Safety disciplinary history, in August of 2014, Hill was issued an oral warning for a “patrol vehicle accident.” The very next month, a written warning was issued for an “evidence policy violation.”

…Hill’s disciplinary history shows that in August of last year, “unbecoming conduct” led to her being suspended without pay for three days.

When asked to elaborate on Hill’s alleged conduct, Buell said it pertained to “inappropriate communication with a supervisor.” According to a report from WJHL, Hill had sent “sexually suggestive text messages, some of which were pictures of her either partially clothed or nude.”

On Friday, Buell added that Hill’s status and duties with the THP are dependent on the conclusion of a continuing internal investigation.

Purkey named new TN safety commissioner

News release from Department of Safety and Homeland Security
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointment of David Purkey as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security beginning September 1.

Purkey, 57, has served as the department’s assistant commissioner and homeland security advisor since 2011. Under his leadership, the Office of Homeland Security has transformed into a proactive agency, overseeing school security plans, training citizens and law enforcement agencies in active shooter response, and leading the state’s efforts to combat cybercrime.

From 2014-2016 Purkey served in a dual role as director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA). Continue reading

Lawsuit: Bradley deputy wrongfully killed man, lied about it

The family of a 23-year-old man shot to death last year by a Bradley County deputy sheriff has filed a $3 million lawsuit saying he was needlessly killed and charging the sheriff’s office covered up what really happened, reports the Times-Free Press.

When the shooting happened on July 28, 2015, the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office said Deputy Tiffany Oakley was assaulted by a stranger and used deadly force to defend herself.

At the time, a sheriff’s office spokesman told the Times Free Press that Oakley was working the night shift and went home for a meal….when someone she didn’t know “stepped out of the shadows and accosted her.”

…However, the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Bradley County Circuit Court states Oakley knew who the man walking through the neighborhood at 2 a.m. was — that she and Allan F. Light III were “very familiar” and “had a friendly relationship” with each other, and that he was on his way either to her home or a neighbor’s.

The suit states that Light “was unarmed and was trying to get away” when Oakley “confronted and attacked” him. The suit claims she fired three shots from her service weapon, hitting him twice, and also shocked him with her Taser.

…Oakley “misrepresented the true facts, denied her previous relationship with, and familiarity with, the decedent and made false and intentionally untrue statements to police officers and investigators and investigating agencies in order to escape responsibility,” the lawsuit states.

Further, the lawsuit claims Sheriff Eric Watson “knowingly joined in and allowed the false statements of the defendant, Oakley, to be unchallenged and proffered statements to the media which were designed to mislead and misrepresent the true facts ”

The suit, filed by attorney Randy Rogers on behalf of Light’s parents, Allen F. Light Jr. and Marlene White, names Watson and Oakley as defendants both professionally and personally, along with Bradley County government. It claims wrongful death and violation of White’s constitutional rights.

…The American Atheists Counsel and a local “Jane Doe” plaintiff sued Watson and the sheriff’s office in May for First Amendment violations over what they said was proselytizing for Christianity on the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page and for censoring comments from those opposed to the religious posts.

The two sides said in a court filing earlier this month they had participated in a successful mediation but gave no details.

Multiple sources told the Times Free Press the settlement involves the county paying an amount in the neighborhood of $40,000 and possibly some kind of monitoring of the sheriff’s office’s social media posts.

Suicide at TN Tower raises security questions

Security issues were raised by a recent suicide at Tennessee Tower, located across the street from the state Capitol, reports WSMV TV.

Police identified the man as Anton Kanevsky, 26, who was visiting Nashville from New York. A state worker saw his body fall past his office window one morning.

Police said Kanevsky left his keys, phone and sandals on the roof before leaping to his death on the plaza 31 stories below.

His family may never know why, but many people want to know how a traveler from out of state got onto the roof of the building.

Kanevsky’s social media profiles show he is from East Meadow, NY, and fluent in Russian. He kept an online travel journal and chronicled his brief few days in Nashville on Facebook. He was looking for work.

Kanevsky stayed at a hostel in downtown Nashville. He had no obvious connections to anyone at the Tennessee Tower.

Security at the tower falls under the state’s General Services division. They contract with private security companies Walden Security and Allied Barton.

Employees must scan their ID to get into Tennessee Tower. Visitors must sign in and show a photo ID. It’s not clear if Kanevsky got to the roof through an elevator inside the building or if he found another way.

The tower is currently having work done on its top floors and roof. There is an outside elevator that’s supposed to be for construction workers, so it’s possible Kanevsky rode that.

Wellspring Builders, the general contractor, referred Channel 4’s questions to the state. The General Services administration would only say it’s under investigation.

Mark Gwyn given new term as TBI director

News release from the governor’s office
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the reappointment of Mark Gwyn as director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).

Gwyn, 53, has led Tennessee’s lead investigative law enforcement agency for 12 years. Under his leadership, the TBI has expanded its resources and embraced technology to enhance the agency’s investigating strengths. Gwyn oversaw the creation of a Technical Services Unit that is responsible for high-tech surveillance methods, computer forensics, and investigating internet crimes against children; helped establish the nationally recognized Tennessee Fusion Center which services as a central hub of information sharing between local, state, and federal law enforcement partners; and spearheaded the state’s efforts to combat human trafficking, including the creation of a special unit to investigate cases and train law enforcement officers across the state. Continue reading

Bristol shooting motivated by anger over police shootings

BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — Friends and family of a black Army veteran accused of shooting at passing cars and police on a Tennessee highway are struggling to accept that he became violent in response to police killings of African-Americans.

One woman died and three others were wounded, including an officer, as police traded gunfire early Thursday with the suspect, identified as Lakeem Keon Scott, 37.

“I will never believe that, never,” said his neighbor, Alan Lavasser, who is white. “Because he was always nice to me and my wife and everyone around here. No way I would ever believe that it was racially motivated.”

Scott — allegedly armed with an assault rifle, a pistol and a large amount of ammunition — was wounded in the shootout and remains hospitalized in serious but stable condition.

In preliminary conversations on Friday, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said he cited anger over the police killings of black men. Continue reading

GOP legislators promote three ‘Blue Lives Matter’ bills

Six Republican state lawmakers launched an effort Monday called “Blue Lives Matter” to increase penalties for assaulting, killing and attempting to kill law enforcement officers in Tennessee, reports Richard Locker.

The legislators will file three separate bills for consideration in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.

In an unusual move, the lawmakers created a website, tnbluelivesmatter.com, and a Facebook page, Tennessee Blue Lives Matter, to build support for their effort, which could face obstacles due to increased incarceration costs and possible philosophical differences over separating officers from other citizens. A bill to increase penalties for assaulting officers was filed three years ago but failed.

A proposal by Sen. Todd Gardenhire and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, both Republicans of Chattanooga, would elevate an assault of a law enforcement officer discharging or attempting to discharge official duties at the time from a Class A or B misdemeanor to a Class E felony, if the defendant knew or should have known the person assaulted was an officer. The elevation would increase potential jail time from 11 months, 29 days to up to six years, and the potential fine up to $5,000.

A bill by Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, and Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, would designate the killing or attempted killing of a victim “who was known or reasonably should have been known by the defendant to be a law enforcement officer,” as a “hate crime.” It would be classified as a Class A felony, the top level in Tennessee’s criminal code.

A bill by Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, would create a fine of $500 to $2,000 for the already-illegal public release of the home address of a law enforcement officer, unless release is pursuant to a court order or the officer gives permission. The statute cited by the bill specifically applies to custodians of public records and it is not clear whether penalties would apply to publication, as by the news media.

During a Nashville news conference to launch the effort, White cited the recent death of Memphis police officer Verdell Smith, killed when he was struck by a fleeing suspect after a Downtown shooting spree that injured three others. Smith was trying to clear pedestrians on a crowded Beale Street out of the fleeing suspect’s path when he was struck.

Note: Text of the draft bills is included on the website.

Special prosecutor sought in sheriff’s dealings with woman inmate

A district attorney wants a special prosecutor to review complaints against Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson filed by a county commissioner, reports the Times-Free Press. One allegation is that the former state legislator pulled strings to get an inmate with whom he allegedly had a personal relationship released from jail.

County Commissioner Dan Rawls, who has tussled with Watson’s office for months over what he claims is improper and deceptive practices, said he handed over allegations and evidence to 10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Crump’s office, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In a statement Thursday, Watson said he is cooperating with the investigation…. “I have done nothing wrong. I have not betrayed my oath or the public trust in any way… ,” he said. “My only agenda will be keeping the citizens of Bradley County safe.”

Among other questions, Rawls asked the investigators to look at whether Watson’s wife, Tenille Watson, is getting favorable treatment as a bail bondsman. Court records for March and April show Tenille Watson, who received her license in February, wrote more bail bonds by herself than the next-largest bonding agency did with three agents.

…The allegation regarding favoritism toward a female jail inmate has been detailed by multiple sources who spoke to the Times Free Press on condition of anonymity. The woman could not be reached for comment.

The newspaper obtained dozens of images of Facebook messages purportedly exchanged by Watson and the woman in the months before she was jailed in July 2015. His identity on the Facebook messages is listed as “Sheriff at Bradley County Sheriff’s Office,” and in one message, he gives her a cellphone number that matches his official sheriff’s office cellphone.

In a December 2014 exchange, the woman posts a picture of herself in a scanty red brassiere, and Watson asks whether she needs to be warmed up. In January 2015, he tells her they should “hang out” and she says she’ll take off work to go on a trip with him.

The images obtained by the Times Free Press continue, including a message at 5:48 p.m. July 6, the date of her arrest on a felony robbery charge, urgently asking him to call her.

County records show the woman was booked into the Bradley County Jail at 7:41 p.m. that day and released at 9:54 p.m., her bond posted by Cumberland Bail Bonds (the company that employs Watson’s wife).

A note on the file states: “Received call from Sheriff Watson stating [the woman’s] bond lowered to 1000 by Judge Randalph [sic] and there is a note on affidavit stating bond is 1000.”

General Sessions Judge Sheridan Randolph remembered the case. He said the warrant originally called for no bond, but someone — he didn’t remember a name — called that evening and asked him for a lesser amount. He said the caller described the woman as a confidential informant.

“Ordinarily I’d probably set her bond at $30,000 the next morning,” Randolph said. “Why he would get so involved is unusual.”

Rawls said his contacts at the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office told him the woman “is not an informant, never was, never will be.”

A few months later, records show, the woman was set free just four days into a separate 120-day sentence for violating probation.

The violation of probation charge, for a 2013 DUI, was triggered by the robbery arrest.

Note: See also the Cleveland Daily Banner’s report.