Caraway Police Chief reinstated

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Jerry Vaughn (left) was reinstated as Caraway Police Chief at the Caraway City Council meeting Thursday. Vaughn was suspended while an investigation was underway concerning an automobile accident Oct. 13, when Sammy Hicks (right) struck 12-year-old Allie Lunsford. (Town Crier photo/Nan Snider)

Caraway Mayor Joe South reinstated Chief of Police Jerry Vaughn during the regularly scheduled council meeting last Thursday, Jan. 12.

In a prepared statement Mayor South explained the action taken to reinstate Vaughn, who has been suspended with pay for two months during the investigation of a accident on Oct. 13, 2005 involving Allie Lunsford, age 12, who was hit by a vehicle driven by Sammy Hicks.

"After approximately three months of discussions, a lengthy investigation by the County, reviewing options of the Prosecuting Attorney and city attorney, and a lengthy discussion between myself and above mentioned individuals, the following conclusions have been made," South read. "Although this was a very unfortunate accident in which a child was hurt, the purpose of the investigation was to determine if Chief Vaughn had acted, or his failure to act constituted criminal conduct.

"From my understanding of the witnesses statements, the county's findings, and attorney opinions, this was not found to be true. However, I do find that Chief Vaughn and the other officers did in fact act inappropriately by using profanity in public and losing their tempers. This is not a valid reason for dismissal. Therefore, a letter of reprimand will go in his file and if it is found at a later date that this conduct to occur again, it will be grounds for dismissal.

"I believe it is time to end this situation and get on with the business of caring for our city," South read. "Chief Vaughn's reinstatement will be effective immediately. This decision was mine and mine alone. We need to get on with the business of caring for the community."

Mayor South opened the meeting to public comments.

"Jerry Vaughn and Bo James searched my house without permission," Kenny Osborn said. "They didn't have a search warrant or anything. Jerry had my keys and was searching my car. Later on they all claimed they didn't do it. Johnny Boatman and Bo James both lied about that."

Both alderman denied any inappropriate action was taken.

"When did this happen Kenny?" asked James.

"I don't remember when," said Osborn.

"It was about five months ago," James said. "Apparently you can't remember other facts either. I was an auxiliary officer at the time."

Osborn continued to relate details of the incident until Chief Vaughn escorted him from the room. Alderman James followed him from the room. Osborn re-entered the building and told the council that, "James was harassing him outside."

James re-entered the building and said he just wanted to ask Osborn some questions about what happened, and that he was in no way harassing him.

Allie Lunsford's parents responded to the reinstatement of Vaughn.

"It is sad to say, but I wasn't expecting nothing less than the decision you made tonight to bring Vaughn back," Al Lunsford said. "I'm not saying he is not a good man, nor a christian, but this is not right. The law should be equal to everyone, not just the wealthy or a select few. I'm sure this is not the only complaint in the last month against Jerry, that you have heard. Sure, there are no criminal charges, but just a matter of right of wrong.

"I have been persecuted for standing up for my rights," Lunsford said. "I'm not sue happy, but we have over $2,400 in medical charges. I am good enough to go out and protect your life and your property, but am not one of the good old boys, and so I'll have to suffer the consequences."

Several people in the audience expressed their desire to hold fundraisers or to help the Lunsfords pay for medical costs.

"I would be glad to help with a fundraiser," Linda Barker said. "I want to help. That is what people do when they love one another. He hasn't done anything wrong and neither has Jerry (Vaughn)."

"The community has been fine with us, and we don't want anyone's pity," Regina Lunsford said. "The Hicks have brought over food, given us things and called to check on Allie, but we just don't feel the accident was handled right. This is not the only incident that has come up. You can't look at your kid laying in the road and not be affected by this, when nothing was done. Wrong is wrong, and I doubt his (Vaughn) ability that day. I wouldn't be able to face my daughter if I hadn't done something to stand up to this."

"It is time we stopped this bad publicity, like that from last week's meeting," said Randal Burcham. "We have got to start the healing process."

Other council business included:

*The council voted to accept the resignation of Ty Koons as part time position two police officer. South and many from the audience expressed their appreciation for his service.

There was no mention or action taken on the resignation of officer Steve McFarlin, which was effective Jan. 3, 2006.

*Passage of Ordinance 2006-1 adopting the proposed 2006 budget, and Ordinance 2006-2 adopting revisions to the 2005 budget.

*Agreement to hire Jerardo Nelson to paint the factory and old city buildings for $2,200. The buildings will be the same color as the Cowboy Grill, as they are in the same location. This will be paid out of the Factory Building account.

*Council increased expense allotment for the Fourth of July rodeo and fireworks $500 for a total of $4,000. Four organizations will be contributing to the event, which included Lions Club, Park Commission, Community Arena Committee, and the City of Caraway.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be 6 p.m. Feb. 9 at city hall.

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