Caraway accident investigation ongoing

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Caraway council chambers were packed with visitors Thursday, Dec. 8, as residents aired concerns over the suspension of Police Chief Jerry Vaughn in November.

Caraway Mayor Joe South allowed visitors time to address the council, instructing them to do so in orderly fashion, speaking one at a time and not to raise their voices.

Glenda Barker, Chief Vaughn's sister, chose to read her comments from a prepared text, after stating that speaking in crowds made her nervous.

Barker referred to the accident that happened on Oct. 13, at the intersection of Waco Street and State Highway 158 East, where Allie Lunsford, 12, was hit by a vehicle driven by Sammy Hicks, 62.

"Hicks was not drunk and Jerry didn't cover up anything," Barker read. "Jerry has been a trusted and loyal police officer, on call day and night. No police officers have been out by the school since he has been suspended. Steve McFarlin had never worked as a police officer before Jerry hired him. Steve should have been suspended, as he was cursing at the scene."

Barker reported the Lunsfords had a basketball goal up by the road, by their home, and requested that it be moved, as children should not be in the street.

Regina Lunsford, mother of Allie Lunsford, responded to Barker's statement by saying, "The kids were not playing basketball in the street."

Lunsford referred to her statements at the Nov. 10 council meeting.

"All I did was ask questions that I had a right to know," Lunsford said. "I asked questions on behalf of my daughter, and was not defending anyone. Vaughn (Jerry) said Hicks admitted to drinking. We were told Jerry cursed at the scene, and I don't know about Steve (McFarlin). If there is a conflict, why not step back. I could see why Steve would not want to sign off on something he didn't see. I appreciate the council sending the letter to have the county investigate this."

"I have been a police officer for 16 years," Gary Taylor said. "If he (Hicks) failed the test then he wasn't drunk. It (the test) is not to be used in court just as a back-up. You don't get out and start cussing and if the chief tells you something, you need to go by what the chief says."

Mayor South reported the investigation of the accident is still ongoing.

"The state declined to investigate, as this is not a criminal offense," South said. "The county is investigating. Deputy Justin Rolland has been over here talking with people and doing interviews. The results will be turned over to the prosecuting attorney, who will review it, and advise the council as what to do.

Alderman Mike Vaughn, Chief Vaughn's brother, requested the council go into executive session to talk about what has been going on during the past few weeks. His request did not meet FOI standards for closed session, and Mayor South denied the request.

"We can't just go into executive session for any reason, as we have to abide by the guidelines (FOI)," South said.

In other council business:

*Mayor South reported Christmas bonuses for employees had been given.

*Repairs have been done to San Francisco Street.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 12 at city hall.

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