KPD officer accused of racist language quits

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Officer Tanner Holt

A Knoxville Police Department officer who was under investigation for allegedly making racial comments in an off-duty altercation with a Black civilian has resigned, officials said Wednesday.

Officer Tanner Holt resigned on September 29, just as Internal Affairs Unit investigators were nearing the end of their probe into the incident, said KPD spokesperson Scott Erland.

Holt was one of five KPD officers to find themselves the targets of internal affairs investigations over the past four months. 

The incident involving Holt, a patrol officer assigned to the West District, took place June 26 in a parking lot at 400 West Jackson Avenue in the Old City. 

According to a report filed by KPD Officer J. Allgood, Holt was part of a group comprised of a half-dozen people who had just attended a wedding reception. Everyone in the party was white except for a Black man, 33-year-old Jonathan Toney of Rineyville, Ky.

Holt, who was “very intoxicated,” allegedly confronted Toney over his ethnicity and made the comment that Holt “didn’t know they let Black people in the reception hall.” Toney asked Holt repeatedly to drop the subject and stop talking to him about race, but the off-duty officer wouldn’t quit. 

“(Toney) stated that he couldn’t take it anymore, and punched Holt in the face one time. Holt fell to the ground,” the report says.

When Officer Allgood arrived at the scene just before 9 p.m., Holt was unconscious and being treated by first responders from the Knoxville Fire Department and an AMR ambulance. He was taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center for treatment. 

“Officers could not speak to Holt at the time of this report because of his unconscious state,” Allgood wrote. Three of the four witnesses confirmed Toney’s account of events, but one of them said she was unable to hear the verbal back-and-forth that preceded the punch, he wrote.

In the report, the incident was classified as a simple assault, a misdemeanor. Holt was listed as the victim and Toney as the suspect, but it wasn’t clear from the report whether criminal charges were pending against anyone in connection with the confrontation.

Jonathan Toney, shown here in a picture taken by KPD officers soon after he allegedly punched out off-duty KPD Officer Tanner Holt.

Toney said after the incident that he didn’t want to make any public comments, and Holt couldn’t be reached for comment because his contact information wasn’t publicly available.

“In the course of the preliminary investigation, responding officers were made aware of numerous possible violations of the KPD’s Code of Conduct policy, including allegations that Holt had made racially motivated statements that precipitated the assault,” Erland said Wednesday. 

“Responding officers immediately reported those allegations to their immediate supervisors, and Chief Eve Thomas promptly requested that the Internal Affairs Unit investigate the incident,” he continued.    

“The internal investigative file will be closed in the coming days and made available for public release at that time. Per standard procedure, the case will also be reviewed by the Police Advisory & Review Committee at a forthcoming quarterly meeting,” Erland said. 

The actions of the following four KPD officers are still under investigation:

— Sgt. Matt Gentry, commander of KPD’s Honor Guard, was pulled from patrol duties and special teams pending the outcome of an investigation into a complaint that he tossed a package of lit fireworks into a woman’s pickup truck on July 6.

It wasn’t clear how Gentry and the complainant knew each other or what his motive was for allegedly burning the truck. Because of the estimated value of the damaged property, Gentry could face felony charges if prosecutors determine he committed the crime of vandalism.

— Officer Cody Klingmann was placed on administrative leave with pay following an August 13 traffic crash on Kingston Pike that killed a 27-year-old Knoxville woman.

The collision took place while KPD officers were responding to a reported business burglary on Kingston Pike about 3 a.m. The woman allegedly tried to make a left turn onto Kingston Pike and ended up pulling in front of Klingmann’s cruiser. The crash is being investigated by the Tennessee Highway Patrol. 

— Officer Coy Lee Tucker, who was the Student Resource Officer (SRO) at West High School, was arrested August 14 on a charge of aggravated stalking for allegedly conducting a campaign of terror against his estranged wife as their divorce case proceeds through the courts. 

KPD Officer Coy Tucker

— Deputy Chief Ron Green was placed on administrative leave with pay in August and it’s still not clear when he might return.

Green, a 28-year veteran, is only the second Black officer to ever reach the rank of deputy chief at KPD. His duties include supervising the department’s Patrol Division.

Erland wouldn’t say if Green was under investigation by KPD’s Internal Affairs Unit or another law enforcement agency, but there was at least one indication that Green may stand accused of some type of criminal activity. 

Green has applied for the local law enforcement union, the Fraternal Order of Police, to hire a criminal defense attorney to represent him, confirmed FOP President Keith Lyon.

“It’s legal aid,” Lyon explained shortly after Green was placed on leave. “If an officer is accused of anything that’s duty-related, what it does is it pays the lawyer’s fee.”

Ron Green

J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at jjstambaugh@hardknoxwire.com

Published on October 7, 2021.