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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for September 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…

Brooks

Roy Brooks, a former captain with the Columbia Fire Department, stands accused of carrying an AR-15 on Columbia Central High School property during a school shooting hoax in May, but that is not the first time he has been involved in a situation where an AR-15 landed him in hot water.

According to a 2009 memo found inside Brooks’ personnel file obtained by Main Street Maury via the Tennessee Open Records Act, he was removed in November 2007 from the Tennessee Fire Academy for pointing part of a broken-down AR-15 at students of the academy.

A disagreement between Brooks and one of the students took place on the drill field, which Brooks does not refute. The student did not return the next day, the memo reads, so there was no further issue at hand.

“On the first day of class Captain Brooks had some issues with one of the students that resulted in the student telling Captain Brooks he did not have to do what he said,” the memo, which then-Fire Chief Don Martin called an ‘outline of highlights of the meeting,’ reads.

Brooks told Martin he’d shown an instructor from Lawrenceburg an AR-15 he had in the trunk of a Maury County Fire vehicle, which he claims he was driving with permission due to his personal vehicle being broken down.

“Captain Brooks advised that he removed the forearm piece of the rifle that included the laser site and pointed it. The laser beam was pointed at the water tower and other objects as well as some students,” the memo reads. “The class members laughed and one of the students said you got me.”

Both Brooks and the other instructor were sent home following a complaint regarding the incident.

Later, Brooks apologized and returned to class after he “admitted that he had made a bad decision,” but was served with a certified letter advising him that his contract with the TFACA was terminated and would not be renewed.

In 2009, an amended law was passed that added fire and emergency services personnel to a law that prohibits pointing lasers at first responders that initially only covered law enforcement officers. In the memo, former Chief Martin said he learned about the 2007 incident when he overheard firefighters refer to the new language as the “Roy Brooks law.”

Brooks was terminated in 2022 by the Columbia Fire Department with four different allegations against him, including sexual harassment and violation of the city’s sick leave policy. He filed suit for wrongful termination against the city on May 25.

According to the lawsuit, “Said sexual harassment complaint purportedly alleged that, on the morning of March 11, 2022, just two (2) days after bringing his safety and regulatory concerns to his supervisors, Assistant Chief (Brian) O’Cain overheard several firefighters discussing an incident of sexual harassment that occurred at the Station’s clock-in station. AC O’Cain later tracked down the alleged sexual harassment victim to ascertain what had occurred. While talking to the alleged victim, outside and without witnesses, AC O’Cain claims he was told that Plaintiff approached the victim firefighter and asked, ‘when will you let me f*** your wife?’

“The alleged event took place February 22, 2022, at 7:00 a.m. during shift change.”

Brooks took sick leave after being made aware of the complaint in a meeting with his superiors on April 11, 2022, under the Family Medical Leave Act. He was on leave for around six weeks, but continued to work other jobs during that time, such as teaching classes at Columbia State Community College.

He was terminated on May 26, 2022, and appealed to the city’s civil service board which upheld the termination in August 2022.

9-11 FEATURE


Maury County receiving traffic safety funds (Press Release)


The Tennessee Highway Safety Office (THSO) announced last week $28.5 million in federal grant funds to be distributed statewide from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the 2023–24 federal fiscal year.

Maury County will be receiving a total of $133,105.60: $20,000 to the Columbia Police Department for traffic safety and education, $20,022 to the Destin Legieza Foundation for a campaign against impaired driving, $20,000 to DPD for a network coordinator, $38,123.60 to the Maury County Sheriff's Office for traffic safety and education, $4,960 to the Mount Pleasant Police Department for traffic enforcement and $50,000 to the Spring Hill Police Department for DUI enforcement.

“The THSO is pleased to announce the allocation of federal grant funds to support our traffic safety partners across Tennessee,” said Tennessee Highway Safety Office Director Buddy Lewis. “These funds will be used to increase traffic safety education, public awareness, advocacy, training, and enforcement initiatives to improve driver behavior and protect Tennessee roadways. These partnerships are essential to saving lives and reducing traffic fatalities across Tennessee.”

Over 370 federal grants exceeding $28 million in total have been awarded to law enforcement agencies and highway safety partners across Tennessee. Approximately $3 million in media grant funds will be allocated for statewide highway safety education and public awareness campaigns.

Every year, traffic safety advocates, non-profit organizations, emergency response personnel, law enforcement, district attorneys general, and other state agencies across Tennessee seek funding through grant applications offered by the THSO. Applicants who meet the required data-driven criteria and highway safety standards are awarded grant funds to support the THSO’s mission to reduce traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities.


Tyre Nichols officers indicted (Commercial Appeal)


All five of the former Memphis police officers arrested for the death of Tyre Nichols in late January have now been indicted in federal court for alleged civil rights violations, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Tennessee.


The indictment from the U.S. Department of Justice names the same five officers who were criminally charged in a state case with four counts relating to the beating and death of Tyre Nichols.


“The country watched in horror as Tyre Nichols was kicked, punched, tased and pepper sprayed, and we all heard Mr. Nichols cry out for his mother and say, ‘I’m just trying to go home,’” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a press release Tuesday. “Officers who violate the civil rights of those they are sworn to protect undermine public safety, which depends on the community’s trust in law enforcement. They dishonor their fellow officers who do their work with integrity every day. The Justice Department will continue to hold accountable officers who betray their oath.”


The former officers — Emmitt Martin, Tadarrius Bean, Desmond Mills, Justin Smith and Demetrius Haley — face four federal counts: one count for depriving Nichols of his right to be "free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer," one count of deliberate indifference to Nichols' medical needs and a failure to render aide, one count of tampering with evidence in an effort to cover up their crimes, and one count of intentionally omitting material information and providing false and misleading information.


Much of the information within the indictment was previously known to the public, but aspects of the witness tampering and conspiracy charges include new details about the aftermath of the beating.


“While MFD emergency medical personnel were on the scene, defendants Haley and Mills removed their body-worn cameras and set them aside before defendants gathered to discuss amongst themselves the force used on Nichols and made statements like: ‘Everybody rocking his ass’; ‘Pop, pop, please fall’; and, ‘I thought when he wasn’t going to fall, we about to kill this man,'" the indictment said.


The Indictment went on to allege that the officers told supervisors and the officer who wrote the original incident report that Nichols was resisting and reaching for their gun belts. It added that Mills and Smith "falsely [told] MPD Detective 1 that Nichols was so strong that he lifted two officers into the air."


Nichols has been described by family as a man with a slim build.


Two of the charges — deprivation of Nichols' right be to free from unnecessary force and the neglect of rendering medical aid — carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. The two counts that relate to obstruction of justice and witness tampering each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years.


There is no parole in the federal prison system.


"As Americans, our Constitution gives us certain basic rights when we interact with law enforcement officers," U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke said Tuesday afternoon. "We have a right to be free from unreasonable force, a right to have other officers intervene to stop the unlawful assault and a right, when in police custody, to have urgent medical needs appropriately addressed and not met with deliberate indifference."


Equipment Believed Cause of Power Outage (Pulaski Citizen)


Pulaski Electric System officials believe a piece of equipment incorrectly detected an overheating problem resulting in approximately 13,000 customers losing power last week.


The power outage started at 3:45 p.m. Sept. 6 and PES announced at 7:25 p.m. that all customers’ power was restored except for 158 customers in Minor Hill whose power was out due to a downed pole.


According to a PES release, the outage was caused by safety monitoring equipment incorrectly detecting an overheating issue, shutting down vital substation transformers. The monitor is responsible for preventing permanent damage to millions of dollars worth of equipment.


While it is suspected the monitor incorrectly detected the problem, data from the monitors and transformers have been sent for further analysis.


PES crews, assisted by TVA, responded to the problem and tried to restart equipment but were unsuccessful, the PES release states. The complicated process of rerouting power was determined to be the best course of action.


“To avoid overloading the system and causing catastrophic failure, the power had to be slowly restored in small sections of the county over time,” the release states.


During the outage, PES office staff were answering 10-12 calls at a time, the press release states.


“We understand some of our customers were unable to immediately contact us,” the release notes. “We encourage all customers to utilize our SmartHub app to get text updates and track and report outages in real time. The SmartHub app can be downloaded on your phone or tablet by going to Apple Play or Google Play Store.”


The equipment believed to have caused the outage is part of a five-year capital improvement plan. The design of the replacement equipment began two years ago, but due to supply chain issues it was on a 24-month backlog.


The release goes on to explain that the majority of this year’s record $14.6 million capital improvement budget is being implemented to replace end-of-life equipment and make needed upgrades for growth.


“Many variations of the cause of the outage have been speculated but we would like to clarify that the outage was not due to intentional damage, pole replacement, vegetation clearing, weather, overloading the system or an issue related to TVA generation or transmission,” the release continues. “PES strives to provide reliable, quality, competitive and affordable service to our customers, and we apologize for the difficulties the outage created.”



Columbia Mayor’s Youth Council announced (Press Release)


The City is excited to announce the start of the 3rd year of the Columbia Mayor’s Youth Council (CMYC). The 2023-24 class held their initial kickoff meeting on Tuesday, September 12, 2023 at 4:00 pm at Columbia City Hall. The CMYC is composed of members from various Maury County high schools who value academic excellence, community involvement, and leadership. The goal of the CMYC is to foster leadership and community involvement among Columbia’s diverse high-school population and to encourage students to become further interested in local government. CMYC meetings will be held monthly, in addition to community and volunteer projects. The CMYC members were selected based upon an application process that was made available to all public, private, and home-schooled Maury County high school students. The application process opened August 1st and closed August 25th.

Mayor Chaz Molder stated, “When I was first elected, I felt a special obligation to the youth of our community, considering I am the youngest mayor to serve in this office. Since being re-elected last year, that commitment is as strong as ever, and I am really excited to double down on investing in our youth through the Columbia Mayor’s Youth Council. This Council has been a huge success in its first couple of years of being organized and I feel confident this year's Council will take the Council, and indeed our community, to even greater heights. It will help bridge the gap between generations and cultivate a generation of future leaders. I am so pleased with the interest we received for this 3rd year of Mayor's Youth Council, a diverse group from all over Maury County. These Council members represent some of the best and brightest of our youth, and this Council should give us all optimism and hope for our future.”


The students selected to serve on the 2023-2024 CMYC are as followed:


12th

Addyson Codling - Columbia Academy

Ayanna Jones - Mount Pleasant High School

Caroline Cashion – Columbia Central High School

Chloe Moore – Culleoka Unit School

Darden Powers – Columbia Central High School

Emily Diles – Columbia Academy

Finley Skelton – Columbia Academy

Greenley Floyd – Columbia Central High School

Hannah Alberd – Zion Christian Academy

Lily Tweedy – Spring Hill High School

Madison Smith – Columbia Central High School

Myla Lindsey – Mt. Pleasant High School

Owen Hollis – Columbia Central High School

Parker Shirley – Columbia Academy

Patton Duvall – Columbia Central High School

Ruhan Patel – Columbia Academy

Will Sowell – Columbia Academy


11th

Addison Thomas – Columbia Academy

Anna Brewer – Columbia Academy

Brooke Gibbs – Culleoka Unit School

Carter Lawrence – Columbia Central High School

Ke’veontae Martin – Columbia Central High School

Lollie Jo Greene – Mt. Pleasant High School

Riley Krimmel – Columbia Central High School

Ryan Bytwerk – Culleoka Unit School

Tre’Veontae Martin – Columbia Central High School

Zion Wyatt – Maury County Virtual Schools


10th

Jacqueline Karp – Zion Christian Academy


9th

Audrey Rountree – Columbia Central High School


To learn more about the CMYC or to stay up-to-date with CMYC community projects, visit columbiatn.com or call (931) 560-1510.




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