The internal affairs division of the Chattanooga police department is investigating an officer who used all-capital letters to type out a report that is contradicted by an affidavit of a Christian whose wife gave birth to a third child the day he went to court.
The report by Officer David Campbell, who is a former schoolyard chum of criminal defendant Hanson Melvin, has created grief not just in the garish styling of its letters, but in a what may be a phantasmagoric tale.
By David Tulis
The report under scrutiny by internal affairs boss Lt. Pedro Bacon holds that Mr. Melvin was “yelling about police harassment” and “drawing more people back outside of their apartments” after a crowd had gathered in a Hixson apartment complex. The street cop says police “then detained Mr. Melvin and he began screaming more so.”
Mr. Melvin is charged criminally with disorderly conduct pursuant to TCA 39-17-305, which forbids “fighting or in violent or threatening behavior” or the actions of one who refuses to disperse in proximity “to a fire, hazard or other emergency.” It also forbids creating a “hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act that serves no legitimate purpose” and making “unreasonable noise that prevents others from carrying on lawful activities.”
His affidavit of the encounter at the complex parking area suggests nothing he said or did reaches any of these statutory hurdles. It indicates Mr. Melvin was simply passing by a quietened scene in which a fight, apparently between two women, had been broken up.
Police appeared on the verge of departing, Mr. Melvin indicates. But Officer Campbell accosted him as he strode by on his way with a friend to a store for milk, demanded his driver license (not just “identification”) and says in his report that “he told police that they had no business asking about him.”
Police are interviewing several of many eyewitnesses to Mr. Melvin’s arrest, people he says will corrorborate his account.
One of the street cop’s main sins in his allegations is generalization and ill-fitting sequence.
The denouement of Officer Campbell’s narrative is a non sequitur to Mr. Melvin’s purported crime. If Mr. Melvin were indeed “screaming” and “yelling,” why were more vigorous physical constraints not used? Ordinarily, a man screaming and yelling is agitated, beads of sweat on his face, and potentially threatening and violent. But not the man in Officer Campbell’s tale.
The avatar in the officer’s narrative — one HANSON C. MELVIN — makes a fit of yelling, and quietly lets itself be tucked into the cruiser where said figment is “transported to HJC without further incident,” to quote the report.
The crime of perjury
Police reports are statements on a state document, and are sworn affidavits. To fib on a police report is perjury, and to fib in an affidavit under oath of jurat would appear to double the severity of the offense. “Any person who falsely, willfully, and corruptly swears out an affidavit as provided for in § 38-5-101 shall be deemed guilty of perjury, and punished as provided for by law for the offense,” the code reads at 38-5-102 (false affidavit — perjury).
Officer Campbell’s perjury would be aggravated if he had the “intent to deceive” and his “false statement is made during or in connection with an official proceeding” and the statement is “material” (TCA 39-16-703).
It would appear that launching a criminal case, for which the defendant was made to appear in Judge Clarence Shattuck’s bar in Hamilton County sessions court, is material.
The officer’s defense would be that he did not have an intent to deceive, but was just being careless and hasty and imprecise in his language. But he must also show good faith, and not bad faith.
Mr. Melvin “waived the court” Tuesday. That means he insisted on his right to have state charges heard in a state venue rather than a casual “justice of the peace” corporation court, as are all sessions and city courts. He demands a trial by jury, which is his constitutionally guaranteed right.
Later in the day, at Erlanger on Gunbarrel Road, his wife, Tarah, gave birth to the couple’s third child. The boy emerged at 10:30 p.m and is named Richard Wayne Ezekiel Melvin.