Police in Knoxville, Tenn., have ruled that an off-duty officer acted appropriately when he pulled a gun on a Charlotte woman who was picking up a used SUV she bought there in May.
An Internal Affairs review ruled Officer Matthew Janish believed he saw suspicious behavior May 3 when he observed Tonya Jameson attempting to retrieve the SUV, according to the Knoxville Mercury.
Jameson worked as a reporter and columnist for the Observer from 1994 to 2009.
She was attempting to place a license plate on the SUV she purchased from Janish’s mother-in-law, who lives across the street from Janish. The mother-in-law wasn’t home.
Jameson arrived to the home in an unmarked taxi that drove away, and Janish said he thought she was attempting to steal the vehicle, according to the Mercury. Janish had known the SUV was for sale, but wasn’t aware it had been sold, the Mercury reported.
He pulled a gun on Jameson for five minutes while a sheriff’s sergeant arrived. Jameson was allowed to go once they made contact with Janish’s mother-in-law, who confirmed Jameson had bought the vehicle, the Mercury reported.
Jameson filed a complaint with Knoxville Police a week after the incident. She posted about the exchange on social media and said racism was a factor, claiming Janish had racially profiled her.
Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch went to Charlotte to tell Jameson the news in person. She wasn’t happy to hear Janish wouldn’t be punished.
“I can’t say I’m surprised, but I am disappointed,” Jameson said in a blog. “I’m not sure why. After all, time and time again, we’ve seen police officers cleared of any wrongdoing after they have shot and killed unarmed citizens. Why did I think my incident would be any different? At least, I’m still alive.”
Jameson told the Observer Thursday she was told her calm demeanor helped de-escalate the situation. Rausch told her more people should act calmly in their interactions with police, Jameson said. She doesn’t think that’s a fair standard to expect of people, however, especially when they have a gun pointed at them.
“There’s an unfair burden on the average citizen not to panic,” she said. “We’re not trained for this.”
The incident is also being reviewed by an independent Police Advisory Review Committee, the Mercury reported. The committee can make additional recommendations to the police department after assessing the incident.
LaVendrick Smith; 704-358-5101; @LaVendrickS