Repo man lacked court order; cop lacked authority to create Gray girl arrest uproar

The Avery Gray repo incident occurred in the spot occupied by the white truck in front of Hamilton County jail downtown. (Photo David Tulis)

An uproar over a police officer’s dragging a girl from a parked car is rippling in a new direction as it appears that the repossession agent did not have a writ of repossession that would have allowed him to take the car in a noisy and public way.

By David Tulis / 93.7 NoogaRadio

Usually repo agents work quietly in the background, grabbing cars in large parking lots when the owner is at work or from a residential driveway in the middle of the night. It is their duty to act this way to avoid creating a public disturbance.

In the arrest of the 14-year-old daughter of Avery Gray on June 25, a police officer assisted the repo agent from M&R Motors in Rossville, Ga., without having a writ of assistance. The officer intervened, and without having an underlying charge or basis for arrest (a criminal act alleged), arrested the girl and is charging her with resisting arrest. That statute, however, requires the accused to have used “force” against the officer.

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At least two videos are online of the arrest, the girl’s and the unnamed city officer’s.

The big question is this: How a city employee, endowed with police powers, is able to assist a private corporate interest, the lender or the car lot note holder, in executing a repossession in a public place, with a great uproar and a seeming breach of the peace under the law? Should he be held accountable by departmental administrative proceedings?

According to Matt Lea, spokesman for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, the agent in question did not obtain a writ from General Sessions Court and have a county process server or deputy assist him in the repossession.

That means that the provision at TCA 47-9-609 applies, that the non-judicial process of taking possession after default regulates the act. The main rule is that the seizure, “without judicial process, [proceeds] without a breach of the peace.”

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Efforts to reach Rob Simmons, police spokesman, by email and in a morning visit to the Chattanooga police services Center on Amnicola Highway were not successful. A call to Chief David Roddy’s executive assistant, Lisa Jones, was not returned. A quick check by a clerk at sessions court indicated no repossession writ had been taken out as against Mrs. Gray.

Matt Lea, Sheriff Jim Hammond’s spokesman, says the following: “I have been advised that the HCSO Civil Process division did not receive a writ of possession from Sessions Court in this specific incident. The writ you are referencing would have been sent to us by Sessions Court if it had been issued to the Sheriff for service. Therefore you would need to speak to them. Operationally, if we (HCSO) had received a formal writ of possession from the court, one of our Civil Process Officers would have set up a time and date with the repossession agent and accompanied the repossession agent to retrieve the property by court order.”

The assistance of a city police officer in the repossession of a car downtown seems to have violated state law when it created a disturbance of the peace. The David Tulis show at 1 every weekday. (Courtesy NoogaRadio)

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