Pulaski Police Officers Punished After Arresting Doctor En Route to Deliveryby Chris Cannon & Ben Hall
Jun. 02, 2010
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PULASKI, Tenn. - Two Pulaski Police officers involved with the arrest of Doctor Terry Wynn on May 5 have been suspended. Officer Chad Estes was suspended without pay for 30 calendar days. Sergeant Justin Young was suspended without pay for 7 calendar days.
"Simply put, they did not weigh the actions of Doctor Wynn versus the immediate medical attention that was needed for her patient," Police Chief John Dickey told the Board of Mayor and Alderman.
The chief determined racism was not a factor and the officers did not break the law by arresting Doctor Wynn, but lacked discretion when assessing the severity of the situation.
The City of Pulaski called in an outside law firm to investigate the arrest.
Officer Chad Estes clocked Doctor Terry Wynn's car going 46 in a 30-mile-per-hour zone on May 5. Wynn is an OB/GYN who was on the way to the hospital to deliver a baby.
She pulled over, and told Pulaski Officer Estes she needed to get to the hospital.
Police said she then left the scene and drove less than a mile to the hospital. Officer Estes followed Wynn and arrested her in the hospital parking lot.
"When she took off or sped away, and left him there, that constitutes under Tennessee law, evading arrest in a motor vehicle, which is a felony," said Pulaski Police Chief John Dickey.
The arrest has sparked outrage in Pulaski and even led to a debate online about who was right.
"They didn't look at her as a doctor. They looked at her as a woman of color, and they didn't believe that she was a doctor," said resident Georgia Paige-Peterson. "If they will do that to her, I can't imagine what they have done to others."
Immediately after the doctor's arrest, a relative of the woman in labor called the Pulaski police chief and urged him to get the doctor out of jail so she could deliver the baby. Chief Dickey called the jail and had her released before she was officially booked.
"The issue that most concerned me is there was a patient that needed care," said Dickey.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered this is isn't the first time Officer Estes has been involved in a racially charged arrest. Terra Hollis sued him for violating the civil rights of her 17 year old son.
Video obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates from 2008, shows Trey Hollis leaving a crowded McDonalds as police arrived to break up a fight. Trey was not involved in the fight, but officer Estes grab him and push him against a table.
Hollis was a basketball player on track to graduate this year. Police also arrested Hollis' grandmother and aunt.
All charges against the family were dropped. The lawsuit claims the arrests were racially motivated. Chief Dickey denies the allegation. He said the TBI investigated, and a grand jury did not indict officer Estes or anyone else.
Terra Hollis believes if Estes had been disciplined after her son's arrest, the latest incident may not have happened.
"I'm very sad it happened because in my mind I think the incident could have been prevented," said Hollis.
Nearly a month after the incident and the people who crowded into the Board of Mayor and Alderman work session are still outraged.
Many feel a suspension is not enough punishment for Officer Estes. They feel he should no longer be able to patrol the streets of Pulaski.
"The incidents that have been reported, plus the ones that have not, it doesn't warrant him being a policeman. He seems to be some kind of bully," according to Georgia Paige-Peterson from the Pulaski NAACP.
As a result of this latest incident, all Pulaski officers will have to attend diversity and use of discretion training.
The controversy may also speed the process of adding dashboard cameras into Pulaski patrol cars. Chief Dickey said a camera would have provided fool-proof evidence of what took place during the arrest of Doctor Wynn.