Tainted tags, asphalt swimming and Car Fu failure

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Reasonable suspicion 

Out of curiosity, has there ever been a legal justification for putting a license plate on your car that’s actually registered to another vehicle?

The answer, by the way, is obviously “no.” This, in turn, begs the question as to why so many criminals opt to drive around town without matching plates, thereby guaranteeing that any cop who runs their tags will be compelled to initiate an unpleasant encounter with someone who, at the least, appears to be involved in some kind of theft-related hanky panky. 

Case in point: A little after 3 a.m. on June 24, Knox County Officer Alex Larue pulled over a 1999 Chevrolet Blazer on Interstate 40 near Lovell Road for (what else?) displaying a tag that wasn’t registered to the vehicle. Of course, the folks inside the SUV didn’t make it any easier on themselves by continuing to drive for a full mile before deciding to acknowledge Larue’s blue lights and come to a stop. 

When Larue finally managed to confront the occupants of the Blazer (itself not so much a vehicle at this point as it was a 4,000-pound hunk of “reasonable suspicion”) he found himself in a fairly unproductive conversation with the 19-year-old male driver and the middle-aged couple he was hauling around. All three were acting “extremely nervous” when it came to answering even basic questions, and Larue ultimately ordered them out of the vehicle. The driver told Larue there was “nothing illegal” inside the SUV and refused to give permission for the officer to search it. 

As a K-9 officer, however, Larue had options that other cops don’t have. Thanks to an obscure U.S. Supreme Court ruling to the effect that dogs are “too full of virtue unrestrained” to be subject to the same restrictions as human beings, Larue’s canine partner, Zak, was allowed to deploy his super-powered “free air sniff” on the vehicle. Then, using the super-powered communications skills that allowed Larue — and only Larue — to understand what Zak was saying, the infallible canine signaled that there was contraband aplenty in the back seat.

“Upon searching the vehicle, officers located approximately 21.71 grams of a clear crystal like substance, believed to be meth, inside a backpack on the back floor board. The meth was individually packaged for resale. Along with the narcotics, officers also located a digital scale, multiple clear empty baggies and multiple pipes, used to smoke meth also inside the bag,” according to the incident report that Larue filed later.

Surprisingly, all three of the Blazer’s occupants denied any knowledge of the assorted drugs and paraphernalia. Unsurprisingly, all three of the Blazer’s occupants were arrested. 

As for the Blazer itself, it was towed to the impound lot, where a team of automotive psychologists undoubtedly awaited to help it cope with the catastrophic identity crisis brought on by forcing it to use another vehicle’s tag.

Eccentric reality breaches 

It was approaching midnight on June 27 when a Knox County officer spotted a 21-year-old woman in the parking lot of a diminutive strip mall near the intersection of Central Avenue Pike and Callahan Road. 

Now, spotting a young woman in that particular parking lot at pretty much any time of the day or night isn’t inherently suspicious. An exceedingly seedy hotel is located nearby, as are around-the-clock convenience stores that sell snacks, cigarettes and beer by the metric ton. 

No, the problem was that she was behaving in a manner best described as …. eccentric

“The female was observed lying on the ground and trying to swim and talking to the utility pole,” the subsequent report said. “Upon making contact with her, she had trouble answering questions and began crying and laughing when asked her name. She appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance, but when asked if she had taken anything she was unable to answer yes or no and just began to laugh.”

Shockingly, it turned out the young lady had a warrant for violating her probation in another county and was jailed. 

A similar case of a reality-challenged individual acting out in public occurred July 6 at the Kroger on Middlebrook Pike. Officers were dispatched to the store about 5:45 p.m. to check out a report that a seemingly intoxicated person was “trying to get into other people’s cars.”

It didn’t take the cops long to locate their suspect, as he was behaving in a manner best described as …. well, eccentric

“The arrestee attempted to make a call to his mother on a thermometer, and was very confused as to where he was,” said the report, which went on to describe the 41-year-old man as sweating profusely, unsteady, red-faced and unable to speak except in a mumble. He allegedly admitted that “he had drunk some liquor earlier and used a couple of Xanax bars,” and the officers found a pill grinder and four Xanax tablets in his pockets. 

Like the aforementioned young woman who thought the asphalt was a swimming pool, this gentleman was promptly left in the night deposit box at the county jail while the officers went back to patrolling for yet more breaches in the walls of reality.

Car Fu failure 

Charlie’s Angels were smart enough to not turn a speeding ticket into multiple felonies.

A trio of young ladies from Knoxville, however, learned they didn’t have the smarts or athletic skills of that fictional team when they decided to take on the Sheriff’s Office with a 2004 Chevrolet Impala. 

Officer Jeremy Montgomery clocked the Chevy on radar doing 45 mph in a 30 mph zone on Dante Road in North Knox County about 1 a.m. July 1. Blue lights flashing, he got behind the speeding Chevy and immediately found himself embroiled in very short chase as the driver tried to escape but instead plowed into a tree at the dead end of Rouse Lane. 

As Montgomery brought his cruiser to a stop behind the wrecked Chevy, the car’s doors flew open and young ladies (ages 23 to 26) began spilling out into the night. One of the back seat passengers tried to run by Montgomery but was “effectively stopped” by the officer’s Taser. Montgomery said that he saw the car’s driver “running straight towards me and I stopped her by delivering a thrust kick to her mid-torso area as I perceived that she was charging me in an attempt to prevent me from taking (the Tased woman) into custody,” Montgomery wrote in the ensuing police report.

Another officer who had just arrived on the scene brought down a third woman as she tried to escape, the report said.

Having seen both Kung Fu and Car Fu fail their compatriots, the remaining passengers in the vehicle (the report doesn’t state how many) immediately surrendered “and were detained until it was determined that they could be released from the scene,” the report said. 

No such luck for the three women who opted to run. It’s unclear precisely who was charged with what in the end, but the report goes on to describe alleged offenses such as possessing methamphetamine and giving a false name plus outstanding warrants for contempt of court, failure to appear, domestic assault and violating probation.

Oh —  and the tags didn’t match the Chevy, because of course they didn’t. No word on whether the Impala’s insurance covered the same level of psychiatric care that’s normally available for Chevy Blazers.

Tales of the Scruffy City is compiled from public records provided on request by the Knoxville Police Department, Knox County Sheriff’s Office, and other government agencies. We do not identify the citizens who appear in these reports in order to protect their privacy. Many of those who appear in police reports are guilty of nothing more than having a bad day, while even those who are formally accused of a crime are innocent until proven guilty. Tales of the Scruffy City is Copyright 2021 by Hard Knox Wire.

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

Published on August 12, 2021