Knoxville Police are looking into a patrol officer’s actions after a Charlotte woman said the officer kept her at gunpoint as she was changing a license plate on her newly purchased SUV.
Tonya Jameson, 45, is a former Charlotte Observer reporter and columnist who worked at the paper from 1994 until late 2009. She covered police, courts, entertainment and general news, and launched the paper’s Paid to Party column.
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The department will release no specifics about the complaint “until it has been completely and fairly investigated and all actions regarding the findings are resolved,” according to a statement
Jameson filed a complaint on May 8 against Officer Matthew Janish, saying he exhibited poor judgment and used excessive force in holding her at gunpoint, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported. “This is how people wind up dead,” she said, according to the newspaper.
The incident happened at the home of a woman in Jefferson City, Tenn., who sold the SUV to Jameson, the News Sentinel reported. The woman knew Jameson was going to the home but was not at home when Jameson arrived.
Jameson said she was removing the license plate to replace it when “I heard a voice behind me say, ‘I'm an off-duty police officer,’ ” according to the newspaper. “I turned around and realized he was holding a gun on me.”
The woman who sold the SUV to Jameson was the officer’s mother-in-law. He thought Jameson was trying to steal the vehicle, Janish told a dispatcher in a recording of the call he made to 911, the News Sentinel reported. Janish, who lives across the street from his mother-in-law, told the dispatcher he had a gun trained on Jameson.
Jameson said she told the officer that she had the vehicle’s registration in her bag and the keys in her pocket, but he wouldn’t let her move, she said. A Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy also arrived.
The incident ended when Janish finally got the seller’s daughter on the phone, Jameson said, and the daughter confirmed the car was sold to someone in North Carolina. “They let me go with a weak apology, and the typical, ‘There’ve been a lot of burglaries in the area,’ ” Jameson said.
“All of that talk about police de-escalating situations hasn’t reached Jefferson County, TN,” Jameson said in a blog in which she recounts the incident. “The Knoxville cop’s first inclination was to point a gun at me.”
A police spokesman contacted by the Observer declined to say whether police believe the encounter happened as reported by the News Sentinel. The department will release no specifics about the complaint “until it has been completely and fairly investigated and all actions regarding the findings are resolved,” according to a police statement.
Based on the preliminary investigation, Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch “has determined the officer’s work status remains unchanged,” according to the statement.
Janish has been a Knoxville officer since June 2006. “Officer Janish has never been the subject of an Administrative investigation or criminal investigation and has never received a counseling form or any other disciplinary action,” according to the police statement.