The profanity of deputies serving Sheriff Jim Hammond of Hamilton County, Tenn., is enough to tingle the ear as residents of Hamilton County, Tenn., seek protection and safety from their elected highest official. Regina Holder’s recounting of her military-style arrest Nov. 12, 2019 — it was all a mistake and no charges were filed — tells how far policing has gone in its war against the people in the Chattanooga area. This narrative of high-handed and courageous law enforcement work is an affidavit of Mrs. Holder about that hour. — DJT
By Regina Holder
My name is Regina S. Holder. I am married, and my husband, Greg, and I live at 6827 Gamble Road in Birchwood. I am 55 and work in Greg’s construction business and own Holder’s Grocery on Dolly Pond Road, which has been in the Holder family 80 years.
My brother, Robert Ellis, is a neighbor who lives a quarter of a mile from my house at 6724 Gamble Road. He cohabits with his girlfriend, Laura Privett.
On Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, at 2:10 p.m. I got a call from Robert to come and get him because he and Laura were having an argument. His car would not start.
I had been in the middle of preparing soup for lunch. I put the heat on low, got into my car, a 2009 Jeep Wrangler, and went down the street toward his house. It was a gray and snowy afternoon.
Call for ‘help’
I pulled into the driveway, got out, went to the door on the side of the house and let myself in. Robert was in the kitchen. I could hear Laura’s voice from the hallway. She was on the phone, bawling and crying, saying she needed help. I took it that she was on the phone with the sheriff’s department.
Robert and I got into my car and we backed out onto the road and turned toward my house.
[The Hamilton County sheriff’s department dismisses Mrs. Holder’s account. Says Matt Lea, spokesman: “Mrs. Holder filed a report with our Internal Affairs Division and the incident was investigated. The investigation (conducted by IA personnel) was determined to be unfounded. If you would like to receive a copy of the IA, you may submit a FOIR to Carole Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org. — DJT]
We had traveled about 200 yards when there rushed up toward us 6 or 7 Hamilton County sheriff’s deputy vehicles, including SUVs with the nose rammers. Behind me I saw unmarked cruiser.
An SUV pulled in front of me to block the road. I jammed on the brake and stopped.
Deputies aim weapons
Officers are getting out. They rushed toward us, with long guns drawn. They aimed their weapons at us. “Hands out the window. Hands out the window,” they shouted.
I did not recognize any of these deputies, though many deputies over the years have visited my store for coffee.
I lowered the window and stuck both hands out of the car into the cold.
“Keep your hands in sight, and open the door,” The speaker was a short, stocky officer with a black toboggan cap and a badge. The man with the long gun stood behind him, the muzzle aimed at me.
The man in the front said, “Open the door slowly.” I opened my Jeep door with the outside handle as the gun was aimed at me.
My brother Robert did the same.
Slammed onto car roof
It was a cold day and I wore a coat and earmuffs. Wearing my house shoes, I put my feet onto the tarmac.
An officer comes toward me, grabs my left arm just below my shoulder and spins me to face my car. With his black gloved hand he thrusts my head upon the roof of my car. He grabs my wrists and puts cuffs on my wrists. The handcuffs are cold metal and very tight. “Where is your weapon?”
“What have I done?” I ask.
“Shut the fuck up,” he says.
He screams again, “Where is the weapon?”
“In my jacket pocket.” I have a concealed carry permit, and before I could speak about my permit and my personal weapon he bellowed, “What part do you not understand of ‘shut the fuck up’?”
Weapon seized from license holder
Three times he asked me, “Where is the weapon? Three times I answered that it was in my jacket pocket.
He was patting my body and found my cellphone, which he retrieved and tossed onto the roof of the car.
“I am going to unhandcuff you and you are going to slowly reach into your pocket and slowly hand me the gun.”
He uncuffed me and I reached into my pocket for my .22-caliber 1920s-era unloaded revolver and handed to him. I did so with a feeling of dread, thinking that I was about to be shot. I felt physically threatened. I felt like I was going to die.
He put my arms behind my back, clicked the cuff.
I asked several times, “What did I do?”
‘What part of this do you fucking not understand?’
He kept repeating, “What part of this do you fucking not understand? Now, shut up.”
The officer thrust me into the cruiser, which was two vehicles in front of my Jeep, which stood in the middle of the two-lane road.
The scene of my arrest and my brother’s was in front of my sister-in-law’s house. The arrest blocked the road both ways.Traffic was backing up, 10 to 15 cars altogether.
I was confined in a sheriff’s cruiser. Through a cracked window I called out, “I need to take my medication, my beta blocker. I have heart palpitations.” A deputy said, “You will get your medications when we get ready to give it to you.”
Search without consent; fear for life
Meanwhile, they were searching my car, I had not given consent to search any of my property. Had they asked, I would have said “No.” They did not provide me with a warrant for my arrest, nor a search warrant for my Jeep.
An officer opened the door, removed my cuffs, and put on a different pair. It was tighter. “Ow,” I said. “That’s hurting.”
Heat poured from the vent of the cruiser, the engine of which was running, and I was getting warm. “Sir,” I called to an officer, “I can’t breathe. Could you crack the window a little bit more?”
“On one condition,” he says, “If you speak to the lady in the front yard right there, I will roll the window up and show you how it really feels to suffocate.” He was referring to my sister in law, Kimberly Childress, who was there watching and screaming and yelling questions at the officers.
This comment made me feel in danger of my life.
Attitude of prayer
My head was bowed forward on account of my arms being behind my back, and I kept praying, “So help me, Jesus. So help me, Jesus.” That’s the only way I got through this ordeal. Otherwise I fear would have had a heart attack.
A black deputy came to the window, and the stocky one carrying my purse containing my driver license and concealed-carry permit. “Which medication is it? The beta blocker?” He let me out and uncuffed me. I took the pill without water. He cuffed me again, and put me in the car, and tossed my purse into my Jeep.
My arrest lasted about 45 minutes.
The black deputy who’d trained the rifle at me released me from the SUV. He was friendly now. “Are you OK? Do you need someone to drive you home?”
I said, “No, I will get my sister-in-law who is standing right there in the front yard.”
Despite search, deputies ask for name
One lane of the road has been opened to cars and trucks. People passed whom I recognize.
The officer with the foul mouth asked, “May I have your name, your address and your phone number?”
I gave him the details, including my cell number. They had rifled through all my personal effects and had possession of my purse. “I still don’t understand what happened.”
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I was given no personal card by any of the officers, nor a police report that day.
As for my brother, a deputy told me, “I’m taking him into the hospoital for evaluation on suicide.”
“He needs a coat,” I said. My brother stood shivering nearby in his shirt.
I got his coat out of my Jeep, went to him, and put it around his shoulders. I was told they’d be going to Memorial North Park Hospital in Hixson.
Forty-five minutes later my brother phoned me from Northpark. “The call got messed up and there’s no need to keep me for suicide watch. They are letting me leave.”
Kimberly and I went to Northpark and picked him up.
As of this date, the sheriff’s department has kept my revolver with no explanation and refuses to return it.
‘Get an attorney’
As of this date, I have been unable to obtain police reports, body cam and dash cam footage, audio of the 911 call or audio from the call of Laura Privett.
My HCSO internal affairs complaint prompted a Dec. 18 letter in which the department said a review was complete and that the file would be sent to Sheriff Hammond.
Sheriff Hammond called me approximately Jan. 13. Body cam video and audio do not confirm my complaint, Mr. Hammond said. Witnesses made statements that disagree with my account, he said. When I pressed for details about officer names and the cause of the encounter, he said six times, “Get an attorney.”
Further affiant sayeth naught.