Sheriff, SROs taking applications for Camp Victory

Sheriff Robert Bryan and Wilson County school resource officers are accepting applications for Camp Victory, a three-day-long half-day nationally known camp to help students learn to cope with bullying and problems such as spotting potential online predators to peaceful conflict-resolution.

“The goal of the camp is to help our young people manage possible problems they are faced with on a daily basis, both in and out of school,” Bryan said. “Our young people today face so many more problems in a technologically-savvy world than many of us faced in school. Our SRO team wants to provide students with the tools they need to learn how to maturely manage problems and build self-confidence while avoiding becoming victims.”

Instruction areas will include such topics as bullying; online predators; drug and alcohol awareness; confidence building, team-building exercises; a tour of the jail; and examination of the juvenile court system.

The classes will be held July 17-19 from 8 a.m. until noon and also from noon until 4 p.m. for 25 qualifying students in each session. Eligibility requirements include any male or female with a good disciplinary school record and good attendance record. Any male or female going into grades six through eight for the 2017-2018 school year will be considered.

The cost is free to any qualifying students. This year, students will receive lunch each day in partnership with the Lebanon Special School District’s Family Resource Center.

For more information, contact a local SRO or the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office.

Staff Reports

Reported crimes increases statewide, down in Wilson

The total number of reported crimes in Tennessee rose slightly from 2015-2016, while decreasing slightly in Wilson County, according to data released by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

The TBI released its annual crime reporting data Thursday, with information reported from every law enforcement agency throughout the state during 2016.

According to data reported by the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, Lebanon Police Department, Mt. Juliet Police Department and law enforcement at Cumberland University and Cedars of Lebanon State Park, the crime rate countywide was similar in 2015 and 2016, with a lower amount of reported violent crimes in 2016.

In 2016, the number of reported murders decreased from six countywide in 2015 to just one in 2016. The number of reported forcible rape incidents slightly declined from 21 to 18.

In 2016, a total of 6,531 offenses of all types were reported in Wilson County throughout the reporting agencies. Of those reported offenses, 2,992 were cleared, or about 45.8 percent.

Last year shows a slight decline in total offenses compared to 2015, when a total of 6,622 offenses were reported. In 2015, 3,046 of the total offenses, or 46 percent, were cleared.

Statewide, the number of reported crimes slightly increased, according to the TBI report.

From 2015 to 2016, reported murders increased 11.6 percent. Reported forcible rape offenses decreased by 2.8 percent in that same time period. 

Drug and narcotic offenses increased by 9.5 percent statewide in 2016. In Wilson County, drug and narcotic offenses increased from 770 drug violations and 340 drug equipment violations in 2015 to 807 drug violations and 439 drug equipment violations in 2016.

The number of people arrested in connection to reported crimes statewide decreased by 1.9 percent in 2016.

Of the total offenses reported in Wilson County in 2016, 1,761 were under the jurisdiction of the sheriff’s office, 3,242 were handled by Lebanon police, 1,458 were Mt. Juliet police, 55 were Watertown police, five were Cumberland University police and 10 were at Cedars of Lebanon State Park.

The TBI warns against drawing direct comparisons among reporting agencies as many different variables can contribute to the total number and type of offenses reported in an area, as well as the rate at which offenses are cleared. Many of these variables are beyond an individual agency’s control, TBI officials said.

Agencies throughout the state are required to submit data to the TBI each year. This year, a few agencies have incomplete reporting, though none of those agencies are in Wilson County.

For the first time in four years, all agencies in Tennessee are compliant with reporting. Tennessee is one of 16 states reporting 100 percent compliance.

“We’re extremely thankful for our dedicated law enforcement partners,” said TBI Director Mark Gwyn. “Together, they helped us compile a thorough snapshot of crime in Tennessee.”

Information released by the TBI is publicly accessible and may be found online at tncrimeonline.com.

By Jake Old

jold@lebanondemocrat.com

Gun goes off at church

A gun was accidentally discharged in a Wilson County church Easter Sunday, according to Lt. Scott Moore with the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office.

There were no injuries in the incident.

About 40-50 people were in The Glade Church at the time of the incident, Moore said. The weapon apparently discharged while the gun owner, who had a carry permit, stood at a guest services desk.

The gun was in the gun owner’s left pocket, and it is not clear if something else was in the pocket and caused the gun to fire, Moore said.

The bullet went through the floor and caused damage to the carpet. It did not hit anyone, including the gun owner.

“It was on Easter Sunday, so of course it’s going to be a crowded church,” Moore said. “This is one of those situations where, as a gun owner, with great power comes great responsibility. A permit-holder is legally and ethically responsible for every single bullet fired out of a weapon. Fortunately, no one was hurt.” 

The investigation is considered ongoing, and the gun owner was not immediately identified.

“Investigators will consult with the district attorney on any possible charges that may stem from this incident,” Moore said.

By Jake Old

jold@lebanondemocrat.com

Nashville man arrested after standoff

Mt. Juliet police charged a Nashville man following an incident last Monday evening in which he barricaded himself inside a Mt. Juliet home.

Christopher Phelps, 35, was charged with evading arrest, resisting arrest, unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia and unlawful possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell.

According to a report from Mt. Juliet police, the incident ended peacefully.

Phelps was in possession of about 16 grams of meth and drug paraphernalia at the time of the arrest. 

An officer attempted to stop Phelps, who was known to have an active warrant for his arrest, as he came outside of a home in the 1000 block of Chatsworth Drive at about 8 p.m.

Phelps did not stop, and instead ran back into the home and barricaded himself inside.

Mt. Juliet crisis negotiators and special response team members responded to the scene.

Officials determined there was woman willingly inside the home with Phelps, and she came out of the home at the request of a crisis negotiator.

Crisis negotiators continued communicating with Phelps for an extended amount of time to try and get him to surrender. 

The special response team eventually deployed a gas irritant similar to pepper spray into the home. Phelps peacefully surrendered to police, and the scene was cleared Tuesday morning at about 3:30 a.m.

According to booking records, Phelps was booked in at the Wilson County Jail on Tuesday at 5:21 a.m. As of Tuesday afternoon, he remained in custody on $10,000 bond.

By Jake Old

jold@lebanondemocrat.com

High-speed chase goes through Wilson Co., Nashville

A high-speed police chase that involved Metro-Nashville officers and, temporarily, Mt. Juliet police officers, ended last Wednesday morning in Nashville with no reported injuries.

The car involved in the chase was previously reported stolen. Officers apparently attempted to stop the vehicle before the chase began.

According to Mt. Juliet police Lt. Tyler Chandler, the department had limited involvement in the incident.

As the driver fled police in Nashville, he got off Interstate 40 at the Beckwith Road exit, and at that time, a few Mt. Juliet officers joined the pursuit as it went through the Mt. Juliet city limits.

After going through Mt. Juliet, the driver turned around and drove back toward Nashville. Metro police later found the vehicle abandoned in Nashville.

By Jake Old

jold@lebanondemocrat.com

Police seek suspects in armed robberies in Mt. Juliet

Mt. Juliet police have responded to multiple armed robbery incidents in recent days, and police believe the incidents may be related, according to reports from the Mt. Juliet Police Department.

In each incident, the suspect was described as a thin black male, believed to be a teenager, though police believe there could be several suspects working together.

On Monday morning, police began investigating an armed robbery that happened in the Hickory Hills subdivision, according to Mt. Juliet police Lt. Tyler Chandler.

At about 11:40 a.m., a pizza delivery driver was robbed at gunpoint after making a delivery in the 2700 block of Leesa Ann Lane.

“As he was leaving the home and walking back to his car, he was robbed by a black male teen,” Chandler said.

The suspect was armed with a handgun and demanded the victim’s wallet. No other items were taken in the incident, Chandler said.

The robbery suspect was described as a thin black male, believed to be a teenager, wearing a brown hooded sweatshirt and red shoes. He was last seen running towards the woods off Leesa Ann Lane and New London Court.

The suspect then apparently ran to a vehicle, and further information confirmed the suspect fled the neighborhood in a black small to mid-sized SUV.

Citizens also reported hearing gunshots in the area at the time of the armed robbery, however it is unknown if the robbery and gunshots are connected. No one was injured during the incident.

Police started an active search for the suspect on Monday in the immediate aftermath of the incident. Police searched for the suspect on foot with the help of K-9 search dogs from the Lebanon Police Department. The search was called off after a couple of hours.

Chandler said police canvassed nearby homes for surveillance video, and did find at least one home with security cameras. Police used the footage to get two still photographs of a suspect vehicle.

Chandler said that anyone not contacted by police, but possibly with surveillance footage of the suspect, should contact the police department as soon as possible.

Police believe the suspects spotted the delivery driver traveling to make a delivery and took the opportunity to rob the victim. Chandler said police think the suspects may have been driving around and “looking for a crime of opportunity” when they saw the pizza delivery driver.

“Right now, detectives are trying to track the pizza delivery driver’s movements leading to the robbery,” Chandler said.

Detectives do not believe this incident is connected to an unknown homeless man living in nearby woods involved in incidents over the weekend, according to Chandler. However, detectives do believe it is connected to another robberies that have been committed by armed teenagers approaching individuals in public in and near Mt. Juliet.

On Sunday afternoon, Mt. Juliet police responded to an incident in which a teenager armed with a revolved rushed and robbed an adult woman of her purse in a grocery store parking lot, according to a report from the Mt. Juliet Police Department.

At about 2:05 p.m., officers were called to Publix, located at 665 S. Mt. Juliet Road, in reference to the robbery, which happened in the parking lot.

Further investigation revealed that a thin black male, believed to be a teenager, approximately 5-feet, 6-inches tall and wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, pointed a revolver and took a purse from an adult woman who had just gotten out of her vehicle.

After committing the robbery, the suspect got into the passenger side of a 2008-2016 year model maroon Chrysler Town & Country minivan.

Multiple officers responded to the area to search for the suspect and vehicle, but police believe they quickly left the area.

It is also believed that these suspects were involved in an armed robbery outside of the Mt. Juliet city limits in a neighborhood, in which the suspect was armed with a shotgun. The suspect in that incident was described as a black male, believed to be a teenager, with curly black hair and wearing a black hooded sweatshirt.

Detectives believe there could be two or three teenagers or young adults involved in the area robberies. Detectives are working with other area departments to collaborate information.

Anyone with information regarding this crime should call Mt. Juliet police at 615-754-2550. A $1,000 reward was issued for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspects.

By Jake Old

jold@lebanondemocrat.com

Mom, son charged in killing

Wilson County sheriff’s detectives charged a mother and son last week with their apparent involvement in a fatal shooting early Saturday morning near Old Hickory.

A Wilson County grand jury indicted both Kimberly Ann Scott, 50, and Lance Kelby Rippy, 25, on charges of premeditated first-degree murder.

Deputies arrived at 1173 Needmore Road off North Greenhill Road near Old Hickory on March 11 and found a man shot multiple times.

Vincent Edward Clemmons, 51, was pronounced dead shortly after paramedics took him to TriStar Summit Medical Center in Hermitage. Deputies attempted to resuscitate Clemmons on the scene before paramedics took him to the hospital.

“Our investigators worked tirelessly all weekend long interviewing individuals, as well as tracking down numerous leads, which we have received about this incident,” said Sheriff Robert Bryan. “These indictments are a direct result of all the hard work and time spent on this malicious crime by our investigators.”

Both suspects remain in Wilson County Jail without bond and will have court dates set in the near future. Bryan said further details about the case are not immediately available.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim’s family,” Bryan said.

In April 2016, Wilson Emergency Management Agency firefighters were called to same address to battle a mobile home fire. At the time, the homeowner was asleep, and his sister next door noticed the fire and called him, which allowed him to escape without injury. Two pets, a dog and a cat, died in the fire.

On Tuesday, Bryan confirmed Clemmons was both the fire victim from a year ago, as well as Saturday’s shooting victim, though he said it doesn’t appear the two incidents were related. 

By Jake Old

jold@lebanondemocrat.com

Home catches fire in storm

By Jake Old

jold@lebanondemocrat.com

A lightning strike may have caused a Thursday night house fire just outside the city limits of Mt. Juliet, and severe weather conditions challenged firefighters in putting it out.

According to Wilson County Emergency Management Agency director Joey Cooper, a caller reported a fire at 808 Harrisburg Lane after lightning apparently struck the house. A follow-up call said everyone was out of the house, but one person had gone back in with a fire extinguisher.

WEMA firefighters responded shortly after 11 p.m., and when they arrived, everyone was safe and out of the home, along with their pets. No injuries were reported.

Flames extended through the roof as crews arrived to the large two-story brick house. It was about 75 percent involved in flames when firefighters started their attack. Firefighters started with a defensive effort to protect exposures next to the home.

Operations continued, although an ongoing severe storm with continuous wind gusts and lighting in the area, as well as unstable structural walls in the home, made conditions difficult for firefighters, Cooper said.

“It [took] longer than normal due to the circumstances of wind, unstable walls and roof contents falling in on top of the floor,” Cooper said. “Our personnel [used] caution during the overhaul phase while extinguishing any hot spots. Our No. 1 concern is safety of our personnel since all occupants made it out safely.”

Crews worked into Friday morning and had to dig through the rubble to find hot spots to extinguish. They were able to recover some items for the family.

Wilson County sheriff’s deputies also responded to help. The Fire Department of Mt. Juliet posted on its Facebook page it had received many calls about the fire, but because it was outside its jurisdiction, firefighters there only respond when WEMA officials request assistance, which did not happen during the incident.

“As far as Mt Juliet, their assistance was not needed,” Cooper said. “We had people, we had engines, we had water. We were fighting the elements more than anything. Naturally people would ask them about the fire since most people don’t know the difference between the departments.”

Sword standoff leads to arrest

Staff Reports

A Wilson County man faces multiple charges after a domestic dispute that ended with him barricading himself inside a home and threatening police with a sword.

Michael Chadwick Pruitte, 43, was charged with aggravated arson, aggravated assault and domestic assault after about a two-hour standoff with law enforcement Saturday.

Deputies responded to the dispute at 290 Phillips Lane early Saturday morning. After patrol officers arrived, the suspect was found aggressively waving a sword through the front entrance of the home, directing it toward the officers.

The suspect then barricaded himself inside the home in a closet and was armed with the sword, while also threatening to burn down the home.

The Wilson County Special Response Team was activated and responded to the scene, and Pruitte was taken into custody.

“We were able to quickly make contact with the victim and move them into a secured area during the standoff,” said Sheriff Robert Bryan. “We were able to successfully apprehend Mr. Pruitte without any injuries. We train extensively for situations like these, and I commend our officers for their quick response in handling the situation appropriately.”

Pruitte remained Monday in Wilson County Jail on $32,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court for the domestic assault charge March 8 at 9 a.m. and May 9 at 9 a.m. for the aggravated assault and aggravated arson charges.

Wilson Central High School student posts message on social media referencing Columbine

By Jake Old

jold@lebanondemocrat.com

A 14-year-old Wilson Central High School student was arrested Sunday after apparently making a threat on social media, according to Wilson County sheriff’s Lt. Scott Moore.

The student posted a message that said the school would see an incident that would “make Columbine look like a joke,” referencing the 1999 school shooting incident at Columbine High School in Colorado. The message was posted on SnapChat.

“At that point, one of the contacts who received the message fortunately told their parents, and the parents then, in turn, called the sheriff’s office,” Moore said.

Deputies went to the home of the people who called in the incident and saw a screenshot of the message. They then identified the student who sent the message and went to that student’s home.

“The student said they posted it in a joking manner, but with a situation like this, we take everything seriously, whether it’s in a joking manner or not,” Moore said.

The student was charged with filing a false report and disorderly conduct and is scheduled to appear Tuesday at 9 a.m. before juvenile court Judge Barry Tatum.

“We have threats like this that come up throughout the year, and it unravels a lot of peoples’ nerves when something like that comes up – and rightfully so,” Moore said. “We want to do the best job we can to stop it right then and there when threats come out like this, even if it’s in a joking manner. We do not tolerate it.”

Police find 5 pounds of pot in traffic stop

Mt. Juliet police arrested a suspect after he was stopped for following another car too closely, and officers found nearly 5 pounds of marijuana in the car.

A Mt. Juliet officer stopped Ryan Andrew Taladay, 36, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Friday at about 8:20 p.m. because he was following too close to another car on North Mt. Juliet Road near West Division Street.

While the officer spoke to Taladay through the driver’s window, he noticed there was a strong marijuana odor coming from inside the car. Taladay told the officer he had a small amount of marijuana in the car, but officers found much more after searching.

Inside the passenger area, officers found five prescription-size bottles of marijuana, about 1 pound of marijuana wax, about 11 ounces of marijuana butter, one small jar of marijuana cream and about 3.5 pounds of loose marijuana. Much of the marijuana was packaged in vacuum-sealed containers. Other items found in Taladay’s possession were glass pipes and about $1,500. All of the illegal items were seized, including his cash.

Detectives from Mt. Juliet’s crime suppression unit responded to the scene to investigate deeper into Taladay’s actions, and police believe Taladay distributed illegal drugs in the Mt. Juliet community.

Taladay was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to resale and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. He was booked in at the Wilson County Jail on $7,500 bond and released Sunday afternoon.

Staff Reports

Hambrick discusses his journey to police chief

Mt. Juliet police Chief James Hambrick’s journey to serving as the first African-American police chief in Mt. Juliet’s history was not his vision when he became a dispatcher in 1995, but he believes it was fate.

“I didn’t envision it. The opportunity [to become chief] came and – I don’t want it to make it a negative light – but I was told don’t try to look for advancing up because I was told Mt. Juliet would probably never have a person of color in a leadership position. God knows what he’s doing,” Hambrick said.

Hambrick said another reason he believed his chances were slim to become chief was because he didn’t enter law enforcement until his mid-30s, but his journey prepared him for his position as the helm of Mt. Juliet law enforcement.

Hambrick grew up in the Settle Court housing development in Nashville and said he had to “grow up fast” during his adolescence. His parents were divorced, and his mother died when he was 11 years old, which forced Hambrick, his brother and sister to live with relatives, sometimes in rough neighborhoods.

The siblings lived with several cousins, which Hambrick said was motivation for him to get a full-time job at 13.

“If you wanted something, you had to work for it,” said Hambrick, who joined the Navy after he graduated Stratford High School in 1979.

“One thing the Navy stressed was pride and professionalism. That’s something that’s carried with me to this day. That was engrained in me,” Hambrick said.

Although the Navy stressed pride and professionalism, Hambrick said other aspects of military life were instilled in him as a child.

“On Saturday when most people were sleeping in, we were up waxing floors and everything, because we knew it we wanted to go to the theater or anything like that, you’d better have those chores done,” he said.

Hambrick said the Navy also taught him to relate to other people throughout the country and world as he traveled to Africa, Australia, England, Germany and other countries.  He said the experience also made him realize how blessed Americans are compared to other countries.

Hambrick returned to Nashville from the Navy in 1985, where he started his own janitorial service, drove school buses for Metro Nashville and started in ministry. He said he enjoyed his time as a bus driver and focused on consistency when dealing with students.

“From day one, if you set the rules and parameters and you’re consistent in those, you won’t have any problems,” he said.

At the same time, Hambrick started going to church.

“People had been telling me, ‘James you need to get back in church.’ We grew up in the church. I was thinking there has to be something different,” said Hambrick, who said he felt a calling to ministry as young as 17, but ran away from the feeling.

He said, ironically, he was often called “Preach” while stationed in Philadelphia.

“It wasn’t any doubt about what was in my spirit,” he said.

By 1994, Hambrick was a licensed ordained minister and started working at Jim Dandy, which is currently Mapco in Mt. Juliet.

Hambrick said while there, then-Mt. Juliet officer and current City Manager Kenny Martin and the late Jerry Mundy recruited him to join the police force.

“Jerry was the first one. He said, ‘James, you’d make a good officer. Let’s talk to the chief about getting you on,’” said Hambrick, who said he was hesitant at first, but eventually joined the department as a dispatcher in 1995.

He was hired as a patrolman a year later.

In 2003, he opened his own private counseling service, but remained with the department as a reserve officer and chaplain. He returned full time to the force a few months later after Mundy died while on duty.

He became deputy chief in 2005 and was named police chief in 2012.

Hambrick said although his life intersects in many ways, one word has helped guide him throughout the years.

“One word, servant. I don’t care what I’m doing, I see myself as a servant,” he said.  “It intersects at that one spot. That’s where I see law enforcement. That’s where I see ministry. I’m a servant. I’m just blessed to be in my position and understand God has something for my life.”

Hambrick said one instance while he substituted a route while driving buses helped highlight the importance of connecting with people. He said the route went through his old Settle Court neighborhood, and students were rowdy before and after they got on the bus, which led to an exchange.

“I remember it. One guy said, ‘Man, it’s just where we’re from.’ I said, ‘Who lives in 362?’ The guy raised his hand, and I said, ‘You’re living in my old house. Don’t talk to me about where we’re from. I used to live here.’ I was able to connect, and in doing that, the whole bus quieted down,” Hambrick said.

Hambrick said the same respect could be shown between police officers and the community.

“I think, especially in this day and time with high-profile cases we see between officers and the black community, if that respect factor was given on both sides of the aisle, I know we’d be better off,” he said.

Hambrick, who often dons a suit and opened Brick’s Fashion in Murfreesboro last year, said his family helped influence his life and his fashion sense, which he said he got from his father.

“I’ve always enjoyed suits. I would see my father in one and say, ‘Where’d you get that?’ I wore a suit everyday my senior year of high school,” Hambrick said.

He credited his uncle, Fred Thomas, as one of his major influences in life.

“He used to really harp on applying yourself. Even after I got into different things and here at the police station, my wife knew if I went over there I would be gone awhile because me and Uncle Fred would get to talking,” Hambrick said.

“He was a big influence because it wasn’t someone I read about or saw on TV. It was somebody that I lived under the roof with and watched. He has poured mightily into my life, and I’m grateful.”

Hambrick and his wife, Denise, have five children and 14 grandchildren. The couple moved to Mt. Juliet from Antioch after Hambrick said he watched a change happening to Antioch. He said he wants to maintain that lifestyle while as chief.

“I don’t want our way of life to change,” he said. “We’re going to grow, but that doesn’t mean we have to lose our quality of life.”

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Mt. Juliet police launch Safe Return Program for vulnerable, special needs people

Photo courtesy of Mt. Juliet police
The launch of Mt. Juliet police’s Safe Return Program was announced Thursday morning by Chief James Hambrick at the Del Webb – Lake Providence Women’s Club meeting. The program allows registry of people with special needs or vulnerabilities to assist police in finding and identifying them should they wander from their home or come in contact with police.

Mt. Juliet police have rolled out a voluntary registry that will assist officers in quickly locating people with special needs or vulnerabilities who wander away or go missing.

The department’s Safe Return program is a registry that can provide pertinent and critical information regarding a loved one, which will aid law enforcement in identifying an individual should they wander from their home or come in contact with police.

“This program is strictly voluntary with the sole purpose to recover a loved one as swift and safe as possible. In the unlikely event that someone’s family member wanders away, our officers will already have the necessary information needed to conduct a thorough and extensive search,” said Chief James Hambrick.

The registry is available, but not limited to, children or adults living or frequently visiting Mt. Juliet who suffer from autism, Down syndrome, dementia and Alzheimer’s. Family members can register their loved one online at mjpd.org, under programs.

“Having a family member go missing is a very stressful event. This program also relieves a family member of having to try to locate the pertinent information during a time of stress, and it allows the family to focus on locating the loved one,” said Lt. Tyler Chandler.

During the planning of the program, the police department collaborated with members of the Del Webb – Lake Providence community, and its insight was a step in the program’s implementation. The launch of the program was announced Thursday morning at the Del Webb – Lake Providence Women’s Club meeting.

Staff Reports

Police dispatch debate continues

Emergency and law enforcement agencies throughout Wilson County wish to push forward with either centralized dispatch or a common computer-assisted dispatch system as soon as possible, several department heads and representatives said in a meeting Monday.

The Wilson County Emergency Communications 911 Board met Monday afternoon, and among the topics that came up was a desire by some officials, namely Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan, to move forward with some sort of plan.

Along with members of the board and 911 Director Karen Moore, Bryan was joined by Wilson County Emergency Management Agency Director Joey Cooper and Lt. Tyler Chandler with Mt. Juliet police.

“I just really want to get the ball rolling with this, one way or another,” Bryan said.

Bryan said he did not care whether the better option was to co-locate or to join the same dispatch system. He just wanted to take steps in the direction that benefits the people of Wilson County.

Board members agreed with Bryan’s view, and they scheduled a meeting for March 10 at 9 a.m. at the emergency communications building to discuss all of the options in front of them. Moore plans to meet with some officials, including Bryan and Cooper, beforehand to have a better idea of the interests of their agencies.

Bryan said he was willing to move Wilson County Sheriff’s Office dispatchers to the emergency communications building or the WEMA building.

“I know there’s room here [in the emergency communications building] for my dispatcher,” Bryan said. “Is there enough for WEMA, too? I don’t know, maybe.”

Cooper said, while one room is dedicated to WEMA dispatchers at his building, there is available space within the building that could be repurposed to be used by additional dispatchers.

In either location, there would likely not be enough room to include dispatchers from the Lebanon and Mt. Juliet police and fire departments. Emergency communications board member David Hale said any such move would not be a permanent exclusion of those departments.

“As the sheriff said, if we make a move like that, it’s to get things started,” Hale said.

“From there, we have to look at what do we need to do with Mt. Juliet? How do we get everyone together? It’s not to exclude Mt. Juliet or Lebanon. It’s to get started in the right direction.”

Moore said she and Ken Davis, chairman of the emergency communications board, met with Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Haggerty and city Manager Kenny Martin, and the two of them were receptive to co-locating Mt. Juliet police and fire departments’ dispatch with other county and municipal emergency and law enforcement agencies.

Chandler said he would like to see everyone under one roof, but he is encouraged by the willingness of other parties to put things in motion as soon as possible.

Cooper said that moving WEMA dispatchers to another location or moving other dispatchers into the current WEMA building would require county approval. However, Cooper said he was in favor of co-locating.

According to county attorney Mike Jennings, who represents the emergency communications board, Bryan would be able to move his dispatchers into the current 911 building with only the approval of the 911 Board. 

The possibility of constructing a new building – or using a currently unused building – as a centralized dispatch center is also on the table, though board members are wary of any plan that will require a significant financial investment. Officials could also choose to pursue expanding a current building to accommodate more dispatchers.

The other option available to agencies would be to remain in their current locations but switch to a common computer-assisted dispatch system, which would allow moving calls between agencies to be a smoother process. Currently, dispatchers transfer calls to other agencies when necessary.

The emergency communications dispatchers would need to upgrade the computer-assisted dispatch system in the near future anyway.

Moore requested during the Monday meeting the emergency communications board’s executive committee would work with her in writing a request for pricing proposal to get a better idea of the cost of an upgraded system. Even if the board chooses to move toward co-locating with other agencies, Moore said the emergency communications office would need the upgraded system.

Board members, along with representatives from emergency and law enforcement agencies, will weigh the pros and cons of each idea on the table when the board meets for a work session March 10.

By Jake Old

jold@lebanondemocrat.com

Leader of interstate pill distribution conspiracy sentenced to 17 years in prison

David Rivera, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, announced Friday that Benjamin Edward Henry Bradley, 33, of Detroit, Mich., was sentenced to 17 years in prison for his role as the primary supplier of tens of thousands of diverted prescription pills that were shipped into Middle Tennessee from the Detroit area.

Several agencies were involved in the investigation, including the Mt. Juliet Police Department.

Bradley and 17 co-defendants were indicted March 11, 2015 and charged with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute schedule II controlled substances, including Oxycodone and Oxymorphone.

Bradley and two co-defendants were also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The charges stemmed from a multi-year investigation conducted by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. That investigation, which included the use of wiretap interceptions, revealed Bradley, who worked at a hospital in Detroit, regularly bought up large quantities of diverted pills from a variety of sources and sent them to Tennessee through the mail or by paying co-conspirators to deliver them.

The conspirators then laundered the proceeds by making cash deposits in Tennessee into bank accounts controlled by Bradley in Detroit.

On June 8, Bradley pleaded guilty to both charges. At the sentencing hearing Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Aleta A. Trauger found Bradley was a leader of a drug-trafficking organization that dated back to 2009 and involved the distribution of tens of thousands of pills. Bradley’s 17-year prison sentence will be followed by three years of supervised release.

This extensive investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration; the IRS-Criminal Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the FBI; the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department; the Smyrna Police Department; the Mt. Juliet Police Department; the 20th Judicial District Drug Task Force; the Michigan State Police; the Brighton, Mich. Police Department; and the Clinton, Mich. Police Department. 

Assistant U.S. attorneys Cecil VanDevender and Brent Hannafan prosecuted the case.

Staff Reports

Did You Know? Emergency service workers do great job

I wanted to take a moment to talk about emergency service workers and the great job they do for our county. These are the dedicated men and women who patrol our streets, protect our homes and give us medical treatment and care when we need it. In other words, you can think of them as our guardian angels.

In our great county we have many wonderful men and women working to keep us safe.

We have the Mt. Juliet police and fire departments, Wilson County Sheriff’s office, Lebanon police and fire departments, Watertown police and fire departments and the Wilson County Emergency Management Agency.

These are agencies filled with professionally trained and dedicated men and women sworn to protect and serve not only the citizens of Wilson County, but also those who visit and patronize our great county and cities, as well.

You may say to yourself, “it sure seems like he’s bragging about emergency service workers,” and you’d be right. I am so very proud and appreciative of each and every one of these fine agencies and the men and women who serve.

Our county is truly blessed to have such fine agencies and personnel looking after our well being and safety. Having the peace of mind knowing that my family and I are not only well protected by these fine men and women, but also well represented makes me more than proud to call Wilson County home.

In closing, please take time to get to know an emergency services worker. Tell them how much you appreciate what they do. And as always, please pray for them and our wonderful soldiers serving our great country. They and their families need our constant support and prayers.

May God bless you all for the many sacrifices you make on our behalf.

Kenny Martin is city manager in Mt. Juliet.

Shepard gets new court date

Michael Shepard, a former teacher and softball coach at Wilson Central High School who was charged last summer with statutory rape, will next appear March 27 in Wilson County criminal court, according to court records.

Shepard, 36, pleaded not guilty to the two charges he faces of statutory rape by an authority figure.

Shepard was scheduled to appear before Judge Brody Kane on Jan. 30. Kane granted a continuance in the case. Shepard first appeared in Wilson County criminal court July 18, and he was scheduled to appear in court on three other dates in 2016. Each time, a continuance was granted.

Shepard was arrested at his home in July. The Wilson County Board of Education accepted Shepard’s resignation during a July 2016 special called meeting, which was held to bring charges against Shepard for termination since he was a tenured teacher at the school.

Shepard was relieved of his coaching duties after he became the center of an investigation.

According to Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan, the criminal investigation also involved a student at the school, but details weren’t released.

Shepard taught algebra and geometry at Wilson Central from 2009-2016. His first season as head coach of the softball team was 2010.

The Lady Wildcats had a state championship appearance in 2014 and won the Class AAA state championship in 2015 with Shepard as head coach.

By Jake Old

jold@lebanondemocrat.com

Fire rekindles, destroys home

Mark Bellew • All Hands Fire Photos Firefighters battle a blaze at a home in Mt. Juliet for the second time in two days early Saturday morning that left it in ruins.

Mark Bellew • All Hands Fire Photos
Firefighters battle a blaze at a home in Mt. Juliet for the second time in two days early Saturday morning that left it in ruins.

Fire struck a home in Mt. Juliet for the second time in two days early Saturday morning and left it in ruins.

Firefighters received a second call to the house in the 500 block of Belinda Parkway on Saturday at about 6 a.m. after joggers noticed the fire had apparently rekindled.

A mother and her son lived in the home. The mother, Patricia Losh, was reportedly on the way back to the home Saturday morning when firefighters called her to tell her the fire had rekindled. The home reportedly belonged to her mother.

American Red Cross volunteers gave Losh and her son a place to stay after the initial fire that started Friday afternoon.

No injuries were reported in the initial fire Friday afternoon. Two residents were in the home at the time of the fire, and they evacuated successfully. The home suffered substantial damage, but firefighters said some items were salvageable.

Upon arrival Friday, firefighters found heavy smoke and flames coming through the roof of the home. After firefighters extinguished the rekindle Saturday, the home was destroyed.

Belinda Parkway was temporarily closed in the area of the home while firefighters fought the flames both Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. The closure was due to a fire hose crossing the road.

According to Mt. Juliet fire officials, the cause of the initial fire remained under investigation, though it didn’t appear to be suspicious. Fire investigators started an investigation into how the fire rekindled.

Staff Reports

Police search for runaway teen

Mt. Juliet police continue to search for a teenager who ran away from a home in Mt. Juliet more than two months ago.

Kishon Wiley, 16, was reported missing Nov. 16. Detectives immediately began to look for Wiley, however their efforts were unsuccessful.

Detectives want to know the whereabouts of Wiley and hope someone in the community will know where she is.

She is a black girl, about 5 feet tall, thin, with brown eyes and long black hair. It is believed she is in the Nashville area.

If anyone has any information regarding the whereabouts of Wiley, they are urged to call Mt. Juliet police at 615-754-2550. Information may also be given anonymously by calling the tip line at 615-754-8477 or at mjpd.org.

Staff Reports

Car crashes into building, catches fire

Mark Bellew • All Hands Fire Photos A car lost control early Saturday morning on Interstate 40 eastbound, slammed into SimplyCare primary care facility and caught fire.

Mark Bellew • All Hands Fire Photos
A car lost control early Saturday morning on Interstate 40 eastbound, slammed into SimplyCare primary care facility and caught fire.

A red sports car went out of control early Saturday morning, left Interstate 40 eastbound, hit a business and caught fire in Mt. Juliet.

The incident happened just before 6 a.m., according to Mt. Juliet police. The car hit the back brick wall of SimplyCare primary care facility at 151 Adams Lane and caught fire. Two people inside the car sustained minor injuries in the wreck. No one was in the building at the time of the crash.

The facility’s sprinkler system, along with Mt. Juliet firefighters, put out the flames.

Mt. Juliet police spokesperson Tyler Chandler said high speeds and overcorrecting appeared to be the contributing cause of the wreck.

Chandler said the initial crash investigation revealed that two people, a 26-year-old female driver and 28-year-old male passenger, were in the car. At some point prior to striking the building, the car went into an embankment and under a chain-link fence. A witness to the crash saw the car traveled at a high rate of speed, changed lanes, overcorrected and lost control prior to impact.

The driver was cited for not having a driver’s license. Police didn’t release the names of the two people involved.

By Jared Felkins

jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com