BEAN STATION – A group of individuals attended the November Bean Station BMA workshop Monday to voice their opposition to the rehiring of former Bean Station police officer Luke Jarnigan.
Jarnigan resigned from the department in February 2019 after being placed on administrative leave due to an investigation into an allegation he unlawfully pointed his pistol at a man whose residence Jarnigan was visiting in Hancock County. Jarnigan had traveled to the man’s house in his assigned Bean Station Police Department (BSPD) pickup truck, but according to then chief Steven Kitts, was not on duty.
According to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, the investigation into Jarnigan’s actions was undertaken by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. To date, no charges have been filed.
Two months prior to the incident in Hancock County, Jarnigan had been reprimanded by BSPD following an internal department investigation. He was suspended five days and ordered to complete nine hours of corrective training for ethics, leadership and professionalism, according to Kitts.
During Monday’s workshop, Cruze Cope, the alleged Hancock County victim, spoke to the BMA.
Cope said, “ I’d heard that they was hiring Luke Jarnigan back to the police department. I’m just questioning that because of the circumstances he actually put me in whenever – aggravated assault in Thorn Hill, back last year.”
“We have talked to Luke (Jarnigan) and John (McMurray, current police chief) can answer the question better than I can, but was there ever any charges againt him,” Mayor Ben Waller said.
“They never did charge him with nothing yet, but the case is not closed either,” Cope said.
“Right now he resigned from the department here. He wasn’t terminated. He resigned on his own and as far as our end we have no reason that we can’t hire him back cause he resigned there’s nothing out against him,” Waller said.
McMurray said Jarnigan had passed the department’s background check and expungement check.
He said, “We have talked with other people that were involved in that investigation and we’ve been told that it is a closed case and no charges were filed.”
TBI Public Information Officer Leslie Earhart told Grainger Today the case was closed in May 2019.
Waller said Jarnigan is currently working in Knox County.
Kelsey Johnson, the wife of another former Bean Station police officer, asked how Jarnigan has been able to apply for a position with the department when her husband had been advised multiple times no positions are available. McMurray replied that he hasn’t posted any jobs.
Attendees of the meeting expressed concerns about Jarnigan’s previous actions for which he had been reprimanded, and Johnson said she saw a pattern in Jarnigan’s behavior.
McMurray said, “And this might help you all too; and there were a lot of people, I guess, that admitted all kinds of mistakes and when he does come back he’s not gonna have any of the authority and stuff that he had.”
Johnson said she thought citizens needed to know about Jarnigan because it would be their safety at risk if he is rehired.
Aldermen Eddie Douglas, Mickey Ankrom and Jeff Atkins agreed McMurray would have the authority to make the decision whether to hire Jarnigan. Alderman Patsy Harrell was physically absent due to illness, but attended the meeting via telephone. She said she was unable to hear the discussion about Jarnigan and offered no opinion about him being rehired.
The Town will hold two public hearings during its meeting Monday, November 23. The first will be to rezone property on Hwy. 25E for a new campground and the second will be for the rezoning of property on Miller Rd. Approval of a surplus property list for the police department will also be considered.