tennessee highway patrol

Gant undergoes surgery to repair arms, hip

Rep. Ron Gant (R-Rossville) has undergone “successful surgeries” to repair injuries to his arms and hip sustained in a fatal car wreck last week.

According to the preliminary accident report from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Gant was traveling south on Highway 18 in Hardeman County on Wednesday evening when another SUV crossed the center line and struck him head-on. The driver of the other vehicle, Marcus Cheairs, died in the crash. Both men were wearing seat belts.

Here are statements posted to Gant’s Facebook page:

Thank you for all the messages and prayers! Ron is in intensive care in stable condition. He has had two successful surgeries to repair his left and right arms and shattered left hip. He is still waiting to know if the left leg and knee need an operation. The broken sternum and ribs will heal on their own. The second CAT scan showed no increased  brain trauma or swelling, the damaged spleen and bruised intestines are not causing major concern. We are grateful to the ICU team of doctors and nurses at Regional One along with the Campbell Clinic surgeons for the critical and exceptional care. We will give further updates as we move forward. Ron is seeing your messages and is encouraged by them and says “Thank You!”

He is resting comfortably in the ICU in stable condition. His pain is being managed by his team of doctors and nurses. He has a long road to recovery with the injuries that he sustained, but is thankful to just be alive. He is in good spirits surrounded by family and friends. He mourns the loss of the other party involved in the accident and ask for everyone to pray for them during this time.

Lee looking for out-of-state troopers again

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters after a bill signing ceremony in Nashville on May 24, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee is looking out of state again to attract new troopers to Tennessee. The Republican’s call last year for law enforcement officers to transfer to the state resulted in 25 troopers being added to the THP rolls. Another 57 new recruits came from inside Tennessee.

Here’s what Lee says in a video touting the program:

I got a message today for cops in New York, all the way to sheriff deputies out in LA. We want you to join the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Our force is one of the most professional in the country. And we won’t get between you and your doctor. We believe that you would be a great fit for our state. We’ll even help cover your moving expenses. Now let me tell you why Tennessee would be a great fit for you. Here in Tennessee. We have so much to offer like a low cost of living and no income tax. We got a beautiful state with everything from backroads to Broadway in Nashville. And for you, there’s an open road to opportunity. In Tennessee, you will be given our full support and respect and our work to make sure your freedoms are protected. We stand with our law enforcement and will stand with you, too. If you’re looking for America at its best, come to Tennessee. Visit jointhp.com today, and we’ll see you soon in a Volunteer State.

Here’s the full release from the governor’s office.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee released a nationwide Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) recruitment video and renewed efforts to welcome out of state law enforcement officers to Tennessee.

In the video, titled “Join THP 2.0,” Troopers Da’Juan Clark of New Mexico and Louis Celaya of California share their experience moving to Tennessee to join the THP in 2022. Clark and Celaya now serve Middle Tennessee communities.

“In Tennessee, law enforcement officers get the respect they deserve, and we welcome qualified men and women from across the country to join our ranks,” said Lee. “Take it from our THP troopers – if you want to live, work and raise a family in a community where you’ll be given full support, come to Tennessee.”

Last fall, Gov. Lee launched a nationwide pitch to relocate qualified law enforcement to Tennessee. Since then, 82 new troopers have joined the THP, including 25 officers from out of state.
Tennesseans enjoy the lowest state and local tax burden per capita in the country. Additionally, the THP offers some of the most competitive benefits, including:

— Full benefits package

— A self-issued vehicle rather than a shared vehicle program

— Complimentary uniforms and equipment provided

— All fees for training academy paid for by the department

In addition to THP recruitment efforts, Lee has made proven crime prevention investments to strengthen public safety and directly support law enforcement across Tennessee:

— 100 additional Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers funded by the state

— Creation of a $100 million Violent Crime Intervention Fund for law enforcement agencies across the state to invest in evidence-based programming and resources

— $30 million to support recruitment and retention bonuses for out-of-state police officers seeking to move to Tennessee

— Expansion of state funding for law enforcement basic training and increasing the frequency of training for new recruits

Out of state law enforcement officials interested in joining the THP can learn more at www.joinTHP.org.

Putnam County commissioner arrested on child porn charges

Federal prosecutors have charged Putnam County Commissioner Jimmy Ray Neal of Baxter with possession and distribution of child pornography. Neal, who won the Republican nomination for another term earlier this month, allegedly went by the handle “Tennesseemaster” on an app used to share pictures of pre-pubescent children.

According to his Facebook page, Neal is a former Tennessee Highway Patrol lieutenant and deputy in the Putnam County Sherriff’s Department.

“My entire adult life has been in service to my Country and my State and my Community. God, Country and Family are my priorities,” Neal said in the post. “I humbly ask for your support to serve as a new and fresh approach to our complex issues involving our school age children.”

An initial court hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Here’s the release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office:

NASHVILLE A Putnam County Commissioner was charged yesterday with possession, receipt, and distribution of child pornography, announced U.S. Attorney Mark H. Wildasin for the Middle District of Tennessee.

Jimmy Ray Neal, 57, of Baxter, Tennessee, was arrested at his home, after FBI and Homeland Security Investigations agents executed a search warrant.  Neal was transported to Nashville and appeared before a U.S. Magistrate Judge late yesterday. 

A criminal complaint obtained yesterday alleges that Neal was identified as an administrator of a group in the Kik app in which images of child pornography were viewed and shared with other users.  Specifically, the images depicted naked pre-pubescent females with the focus on the genital area.

This long-running investigation by the FBI began in July 2021, and after the arrest of an Oklahoma man on child pornography charges, other users in the Kik app group were identified, including “tennesseemaster,” later identified as Jimmy Ray Neal. 

A preliminary and detention hearing is set for Tuesday, May 31, 2022, at 2 p.m.

If convicted, Neal faces a mandatory minimum of five years, and up to 20 years in prison. 

This case is being investigated by the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Monica Morrison is prosecuting the case.

The charges are merely accusations.  The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Lee budget assigns 20 more troopers to Shelby County

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his State of the State address on Jan. 31, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee says his budget proposal would assign 20 more Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers to Shelby County to help stem crime rates.

Here’s the release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced his proposed budget will fund 20 additional Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers for Shelby County as the administration focuses on proven crime prevention methods and addressing law enforcement staff shortages.

Gov. Lee will be in Memphis on Thursday, March 3, to do a ride-along with the Tennessee Highway Patrol and Memphis Police Department with a brief media avail to follow.

“Violent crime has no place in Tennessee, period. To immediately strengthen public safety, we have to invest in evidence-based crime prevention methods and continue efforts to recruit and retain qualified law enforcement officers,” said Gov. Lee. “I commend the Memphis Police Department for their work to protect neighborhoods across the city and look forward to our continued partnership.”

Gov. Lee’s Fiscal Year 22-33 budget proposes key public safety investments, including proven crime prevention methods to directly support Memphis and Shelby County:

— 20 additional Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers for Shelby County funded 100% by the state.

— Creation of a $150 million Violent Crime Intervention Fund for law enforcement agencies across the state to invest in evidence-based programming and resources.

— $30 million to support relocation bonuses for out-of-state police officers seeking to move to Tennessee.

— Expansion of state funding for law enforcement basic training and increasing the frequency of training for new recruits.

— Access to a statewide hiring portal that includes qualified law enforcement recruits from outside of Tennessee who are looking to relocate.

Read more about Gov. Lee’s statewide public safety agenda here.

Protesters blocked from entering Capitol while Senate candidate hobnobs with lawmakers

State troopers rushed to block demonstrators from entering the state Capitol on Monday. Meanwhile on the inside of the building, U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty pressed the flesh with Republican lawmakers inside the building.

The protesters were given several reasons for why the couldn’t attend Monday’s floor session, including that House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) had closed the building to visitors and that the THP was concerned protesters had previously been involved in defacing the building. The Senate side of the Capitol complex has been closed to all visitors since the General Assembly returned from its coronavirus hiatus.

Later on Monday night, 21 protesters were removed from the Capitol complex for violating a camping ban.