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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for November 13, 2023


All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.


We start with local news…

Trial Set for Roy Brooks (CDH)

A trial date has been set following the arraignment hearing last week of former Columbia firefighter Roy Brooks during his arraignment in Maury County Circuit Court.

The trial is set for May 22, 2024.

Brooks, a former first responder, was indicted Aug. 17 for carrying a firearm on the campus of Columbia Central High School in response to what was thought to be an active shooter situation on May 3. The supposed active shooter threat, communicated by Robocall to high schools across the state, was later determined to be a hoax by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

In August, a grand jury issued a true bill of indictment against Brooks on the charge of carrying a weapon on school property, a Class E felony.

Brooks appeared in court Wednesday for his arraignment, but no discussion or details of the investigation were shared in the courtroom. After a brief recess, presiding Judge David Lee Allen declared Brooks' case will now go to trial in May.

According to Brooks' attorney David Christensen, he denied a plea deal in lieu of a trial.

Though Brooks was not at liberty to comment, his attorney Christensen shared details about what will come next in the case.

"He didn't take a plea deal because, basically, we don't think he did anything illegal," Christensen said. "We expect the trial to go very well for him."

Christensen said the offer included a year of probation that would come off his record, or a diversion.

Christensen said Columbia Police Department, who were on the scene May 3, not only didn't deem Brooks a threat given he wasn't an official responder but saw him as a person who could help if it had been a real active shooter situation.

How Brooks was made aware of the scene, Christensen said, was "because somebody told him, I think an EMT."

In August, Columbia Police Chief Jeremy Alsup stated that Brooks was seen on video with officers, but was not an authorized member of any response team.

However, Christensen argued that Brooks' history with the local SWAT team was taken into consideration at the time.

"He wasn't in the SWAT team at the moment, but he had been in the past. Everybody knew him and he was there, and so they put him in Team 2," he claimed, citing that footage exists, showing the incident.

The May 3 incident also led to further issues among Maury County Public Schools officials. Following Brooks' initial indictment, Central High School Principal Michael Steele was also temporarily suspended following the announcement of the indictment.

Then, MCPS Lisa Ventura released a statement about the May 3 incident and law enforcement's response as well as Brooks' presence on campus.

The reasoning for Steele's suspension at the time, according to Superintendent Lisa Ventura, was due to “insubordination and unprofessional conduct at Central High School” with four policy violations related to "crisis management", "staff relations," "staff rights and responsibilities" and "ethics."

If found guilty, the sentence would likely be the initial plea deal of diversion, or probation without carrying an official conviction. It can also include up to two years of jail time, Christensen said.

"It could be zero days, or up to two years in jail," he said.

Spring Hill Christian Academy (WKOM Audio 3:57)

On Friday, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the new location for Spring Hill Christian Academy. Front Porch Radio’s Mary Susan Kennedy attended the grand opening and spoke to the school’s headmaster…

Veteran’s Day Parade (CDH and WKOM Audio 2:54)

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Columbia celebrated Veterans Day with a special parade, which made its way down West 7th Street on Saturday.

The parade was the first the city has hosted in more than 20 years, and featured all Maury County mayors, as well as local JROTC groups, veteran organizations and nonprofits.

"I'm really excited that the Maury County Veterans Service office has brought this event back to the community, because I think it's been several decades since we've had a Veterans Day Parade or event celebrating veterans like this in quite some time," Mayor Chaz Molder said.

"It's a great day for our community to support our veterans."

Molder added that the event came about earlier this year when he was approached by representatives from the Veterans Service office requesting to bring the long-lost tradition back.

"They had a dream to bring a Veterans Day parade back to downtown Columbia. I thought it would be a great opportunity not only to promote veterans in a way we haven't done, and so I was obviously thrilled to be a part of those conversations," Molder said.

Molder concluded saying that being part of the parade and revamping an old tradition was indeed a proud moment for not just Columbia, but all of Maury County.

"It was a special day, and I was honored to ride in it as mayor. And of course, my friend Jim Hagaman of Spring Hill, he's both a mayor and a veteran, and I was proud he could be a part of it," Molder said. "Mt. Pleasant Mayor Bill White and [Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt] was also there as well. It's not too often you get all four of us together in the same place, and that happened today because there was a group that brought us together, which is just fantastic."

Hagaman said, as a U.S Air Force veteran and a civil servant, that Veterans Day is a reminder of the pledge and sacrifice so many have made not only to ensure freedom, but the American way of life. Sometimes even a simple, "Thank you for your service," speaks volumes, he said.

"I'm glad, very honored and blessed to live in a country that honors its veterans," Hagaman said. "When there are days like Veterans Day, or businesses that honor veteran discounts because they are either veteran-owned or recognize the importance ... it's because veterans throughout the generations allowed this to happen. I like that."

Front Porch Radio’s Delk Kennedy attended the parade and spoke to some of the attendees including the grand marshals…

Quilts of Valor (WKOM Audio 2:23)

As part of the Veterans’ Day activities, a local organization, Quilts of Valor was on hand to support veterans and active service members. Our own Delk Kennedy spoke to Quilts of Valor member Ginger Fondurant about what they do for veterans in the community…

Celebrating Our American Heritage (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College is hosting its 37th annual “Celebrating Our American Heritage” lecture series with presentations sponsored by the Columbia State Department of History designed to illuminate the past and enhance our understanding of the present.

The series will wrap up this week. On Nov. 14, Zach Kinslow, Columbia State alum and executive director of the Governor Frank G. Clement Railroad Hotel Museum in Dickson, Tennessee, will present “WELCOME? A History of the Quest for United States Citizenship and the American Response.”

From the founding of the United States to modern day America, the idea of who could immigrate and obtain citizenship has been a continually contentious debate. Kinslow will present a program detailing the history of U.S. Citizenship and its evolution (and sometimes devolution) from the formation of the Constitution to modern citizenship laws.

The American Heritage series lectures are free and open to the public. Each lecture will take place from 4–5:15 p.m. in room 118 of the Frank G. Clement Building on the Columbia Campus at 1665 Hampshire Pike.

And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…  

Paul Thomas Smith, 68, a resident of Lobelville, and former Equipment technician for Vanderbilt died Wednesday, at his residence.

A Memorial service will be held Thursday, November 16, 2023 at 2:00 P.M at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements and condolences may be extended online at www.oakesandnichols.com.

Dylan Lee Marcrom, 32, resident of Columbia, died Thursday, November 9, 2023.

Funeral services will be conducted Tuesday, November 14, 2023 at 12:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Monday from 3:00 - 7:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

…And now, news from around the state…

Federal Ed Money Panel (Tennessean)

The 10-member Joint Working Group on Federal Education Funding met for three days to hear testimony on what funding flows to Tennessee from federal agencies, which counties rely on it most, what programs the funding supports, and whether it is feasible for the state to make up the difference.

Republican leadership has tasked the group with formulating a strategy for how the state could go about rejecting the funding before the legislature reconvenes in January.

If the panel recommends rejecting the funds and lawmakers act on it, Tennessee would be the first state to undertake such an endeavor.

Sen. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, who co-chairs the committee, repeatedly emphasized that the panel’s work is “not about cutting programs in any way, shape or form.” If the state does choose to reject federal funding, he says the state would continue to pay for programs funded by that money.

“There is no word in any document, and I don't think any plan from any member of this working group, to cut $1 of spending,” Lundberg said. “There is discussion about what comes with federal dollars that we receive. And what we're looking at is not only are getting the bang for the buck, but what kind of onus comes on the state when we receive those federal dollars?”

Rep. Ronnie Glynn, D-Clarksville, one of just two Democrats on the panel, noted that even state money carries reporting and accountability requirements. 

“There’s strings with any money that you get,” Glynn said. 

Gov. Bill Lee has signaled he is open to the panel's work and has cited “excessive overreach” of federal agencies. He has also emphasized that appointing the working group was not his idea.

“I’m interested to see what they find,” Lee told reporters last month. “I think it’s important that we have transparency around any federal funding program that we have. I suspect that’s what we’re going to get when they have this report.”

GSA Names New CEO (MSM)

Danielle Whitworth Barnes has been selected as the next president and CEO of the Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee, according to a news release from the organization.

Barnes is scheduled to begin in the roles on Dec. 1. She is a former Tennessee Department of Human Services Commissioner, leading the state’s second-largest department. She previously served as an Executive Director for Ernst & Young, LLC, leading the US Human Services practice for the firm.

Barnes holds certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources and maintains an active law license. She earned her undergraduate degree from Spelman College and her law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law.

She is active in Jack and Jill of America Foundation, Think TN, Tennessee State Museum, Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation, the Tennessee Adoption Project, and MLB Music City (Nashville Stars).

Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee serves more than 17,000 girls and adults in 39 counties across Middle Tennessee.

Cool Springs Shootings (WilliamsonHerald)

Franklin Police Department officers responded to an active shooter call Saturday night around 9:30 p.m. at the Marriott of Cool Springs.  

Upon arrival, several officers began rendering aid to two victims. FPD said, the shooter had left the scene. 

Officers immediately saturated the area and the suspect, identified as 29-year-old Cody Wiggins, who was located on foot in a nearby subdivision. The FPD said the suspect arrested was the husband and brother-in-law of the two victims.  

They had all been in Franklin attending a wedding. 

Warrants for Wiggins, of Florida, were obtained by a Franklin Detective for two counts of attempted homicide, aggravated assault, aggravated domestic assault, and tampering with evidence.  

He is in the Williamson County Jail. The weapon was a semi-automatic handgun.

The victims were transported by ambulance to Vanderbilt Hospital. An update on their condition will be released when available. 

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Singer/songwriter Alanis Morissette announced 31 North America shows for The Triple Moon Tour. Following her 2021-2022 record breaking global tour celebrating 25 years of JAGGED LITTLE PILL, this new tour will feature special guest Rock and Roll Hall of Fame icon Joan Jett & the Blackhearts along with support from Morgan Wade.

Tickets will be available starting with a Citi presale beginning on Tuesday, November 14.

Citi is the official card of the Triple Moon Tour. Citi cardmembers will have access to presale tickets beginning Tuesday, November 14 at 10am local time until Thursday, November 16 at 10pm local time through the Citi Entertainment program. For complete presale details visit www.citientertainment.com.


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