Japan’s Trifecta of Death, Bin Laden’s well-deserved death, Congresswoman Gifford’s well-deserved life, the ATF Fast & Furious scandal—all pure gold. But The Pulse belongs to sweet, sweet Chattanooga, so let’s keep things simple and wrap up the year with some local crime-related stories in no particular order. (Seriously.)
The Disappearance of Gail Palmgren
The 44-year-old Signal Mountain mother disappeared without a trace on April 30. Shortly thereafter it was revealed that her husband Matt had been having an affair with a co-worker and he was promptly tried and convicted of her murder by local media. After seven months of searches and investigation, officials found her remains and her wrecked Jeep on the side of Signal Mountain. Her death has been deemed an accident; no apologies are expected from the aforementioned local media because … why would they?
Unavoidable, and finally, undeniable. Of Chattanooga’s 23 homicides so far this year, Chattanooga police officials estimate that 65 percent are gang-related. For once, denying gangs is not the problem; Mayor Littlefield had his spin stopped cold the last time he tried to blow it off as a “flash mob epidemic” and to his dismay discovered that his constituency did not consist of lobotomized snow monkeys, as he had apparently assumed.
The Murder of Sgt. Tim Chapin
The brutal murder of this humble and incredibly brave man and the devastation his death has wrought on this community has been more thoroughly documented than I could hope to summarize if given 100 years to do so, but an alternate title may have been “25-Year-Old Jesse Mathews Wins Front Row Seat Ticket in Center-Stage Hell.”
37 Die in April Tornados
Police, fire and EMS were given a snapshot of hell burned into their brains courtesy of the Apison F-4 tornado that killed eight in our county and 37 state-wide. The scene was devastation personified.
Deceased Infant Sent Home from Erlanger in Styrofoam Cooler
Three words: Holy Freaking Crap. A 22-year-old woman gave birth to a baby at 19 weeks that died shortly after. State law won’t allow the hospital to keep the body; it can only “hold it” until funeral arrangements are made, arrange delivery to a funeral home or … allow the parents to transport the baby themselves. The mother signed a release, but Erlanger was screwed from the get-go with this Catch-22. The story sparked public outrage after Erlanger sent the mother home with her deceased infant in a Styrofoam cooler. Nice move.
Police Take-Home Cars
Remember that spot in the news about the mayor’s new plan to save half of one percent of the overall budget by eliminating 58 percent of the police department’s take-home cars, despite little problems like the gang-violence bit mentioned earlier? How Littlefield spent $70,000 to equip a parking lot (two, actually) to save $600,000 (which was somehow $300,000 the year before), after he decided to save money by ceasing to hire cops for two years? In a later effort to show he had a sense of humor, he pushed to build a $3.5 million “wellness center” about the time the $70,000 parking lot was abandoned. For four months that story raged and he still never “got it.” Which leads to …
The Littlefield Recall
(Nice transition, right?) Police related? You bet your ass; see the above. Right or wrong, “The People” recalled a mayor for the first time in Chattanooga history by virtue of the city charter by which he was elected. He sued to fight this and won. “The People” appealed and he lost. Then he lost again. Then he sued again. Anyone else think our town is boring?
Cleveland Police Controversy
Can you freakin’ believe this crap? Cleveland police officers “dating” minors, viewing porn on city-owned phones, snorting crushed pills and having oral sex in public—and Police Chief Wes Snyder insists there was no proof of the officers’ misdeeds so no investigation was needed. Oh, the cops are in jail now (investigated and arrested by other cops, mind you), but wow! Looks like Chattanooga isn’t the only town cool enough to be this messed up.
Two Killed By Train
Hey, it’s my list and this one just sticks in my mind. A Norfolk Southern train struck and killed 28-year-old Michael Hennen and 19-year-old Hannah Barnes as the two were lying on the tracks in the early morning of Aug. 22. The parents, friends and the poor engineer will forever be baffled by what investigators deemed to be an accident, but the event was as tragic as it was bizarre.
Dirty-Ass Occupy Chattanooga Protestors
And finally, probably the most drawn-out, police-related story this year locally was about how little interaction police had with our homegrown version of the “Occupy Something” movement that swept the nation. Tolerated until recently, the Chattanooga “Campifiers” will tell their children in generations to come not so much of their struggles with police, but the rather strange places they had to poop in order to show “solidarity.”
Here’s to you, 2011. Not once has my fiction competed with your reality.
Alex Teach is the pseudonym of a highly opinionated Chattanooga police officer. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/alex.teach.