The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation continues its probe into an officer-involved shooting Friday night following a vehicle pursuit in Greene County.
The man shot, 34-year-old Joshua Cook, remained hospitalized Monday with non-life threatening injuries, a TBI spokesman said in an email response to questions.
A condition report for Cook was not available.
Sheriff Wesley Holt and Dan E. Armstrong, Greene County district attorney general, referred questions to the TBI.
Cook was shot following the chase, which began about 8:30 p.m. Friday when a deputy responded to the 300 block of North Broyles Street in Greeneville to a report of individuals sitting in a parked vehicle playing loud music, according to a TBI news release.
As the deputy approached the vehicle, another person jumped inside and it drove off. Two attempts were made to stop the vehicle with spike strips. It subsequently stopped along Snapps Ferry Road, where deputies surrounded the vehicle.
“For reasons still under investigation, the situation escalated and resulted in at least one deputy firing upon the vehicle,” striking and injuring Cook, the driver, the TBI news release said.
It was not clear whether formal charges against Cook had been filed as of Monday.
A passenger in the car, 25-year-old Melinda E. Babb, of 1070 Tyne Gray Road, was charged with evading arrest, criminal impersonation, simple possession of a Schedule VI drug and possession of unlawful drug paraphernalia and violation of probation.
Babb allegedly gave a false name and date of birth to deputies. Further investigation found her to be in possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
The Afton woman was also served an active warrant for violation of probation. She is held without bond pending an unspecified court date.
The deputy involved has been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation, Holt said. The deputy has not been identified.
Cook was involved in a previous vehicle pursuit with sheriff’s deputies.
On March 27, 2017, Cook was charged with felony evading arrest and several other offenses.
Cook who listed a home address at the time on Indian Hills Circle, was also charged with possession of a prohibited weapon, possession of drug paraphernalia and driving on a suspended license.
Cook was seen driving a car on Andrew Johnson Highway that “crossed out of (the) travel lane multiple times,” a deputy’s report said.
Patrol car lights and siren were activated and a traffic stop was attempted. The car pulled into the O’Reilly Auto Parts lot on East Andrew Johnson Highway, then accelerated out of the parking lot onto Emory Road.
The car driven by Cook “still failed to stop for lights and sirens” and made a right-hand turn onto Gass Drive, coming to a stop after a short distance, the report said.
Cook was in the driver’s seat. Found in the car were a syringe and a “sale/delivery baggie” along with an expandable baton, the report said.
A records check showed that Cook’s driver’s license was suspended in 2009 in Greene County.
On April 19, 2017, Cook entered guilty pleas in General Sessions Court to evading arrest and the other offenses he was charged with.
In November 2015, Cook was charged with three counts of felony aggravated assault in connection with an incident where he brandished a machete during the assault of three people in Greeneville.
Cook was taken into custody in January 2016 by police in Albuquerque, New Mexico, while driving a sport utility vehicle stolen in Greeneville. He was extradited back to Tennessee.
Cook stole the SUV on Jan. 3, 2016, from a Willoughby Road driveway. The owner told deputies he started the SUV to warm it up before he went to church.
It was gone when he came out of the house, a report said.
Cook was charged with theft over $1,000 but less than $10,000 in connection with that incident.
Cook was also charged with theft of property valued over $1,000 and theft of property valued under $500 by the Greene County Sheriff’s Department in connection with unrelated offenses.
Cook entered guilty pleas in July 2016 to felony reckless endangerment and the theft charges in Greene County Criminal Court. He has since been convicted three times of violation of probation in Criminal Court and has another violation of probation charge pending, according to court records.
Local businessman and philanthropist Scott Niswonger has been recognized many times for his business success and his generosity, but an honor he received recently reflected one of his greatest passions.
Niswonger was inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame as a staunch advocate and supporter for aviation. The induction ceremony took place during the Aviation Hall of Fame’s annual gala in Murfreesboro earlier this month, according to a news release from the Hall of Fame.
“I certainly am appreciative to be recognized for that award. It was totally unexpected by me. Aviation is my passion, and it was wonderful to be recognized by the Tennessee Hall of Fame,” Niswonger said.
A native of Van Wert, Ohio, Niswonger learned to fly as a teenager, soloing on his 16th birthday. He graduated from Purdue University with a degree in aviation technology and was employed as a corporate pilot with the Magnavox Company, which brought him to Greeneville.
During his aviation career, he has flown many aircraft, ranging from a Piper J-3 Cub to the Boeing 747. His current aviation interests consist of an aircraft charter operation with worldwide authority, a fixed base operation, a Federal Aviation Administration Part 141 flight school, an FAA Part 145 maintenance center along with a combination of 16 single engine, two multi-engine and four jet aircraft, the release stated.
In 1973, Niswonger started a successful Part 121 cargo airline, General Aviation, Inc. which operated 38 freighters on nightly scheduled service.
After selling General Aviation, he became vice president of operations for Flying Tiger Lines – a military contractor and global cargo airline. He later co-founded Landair Services, which was taken public in 1993, and in 1990 he formed Forward Air Corporation, which remains a publicly traded company.
In 2001, the businessman founded the Niswonger Educational Foundation to create opportunities for individual and regional growth through educational programs, scholarships and other charitable activities.
The educational foundation currently has 20 scholars in college and 71 alumni. The foundation has an annual budget of more than $5 million and has invested more than $70 million in rural East Tennessee’s Pre-K through 12th-grade public education system, the release stated.
The Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame was designated by the General Assembly in 2003 as the state’s official hall of fame and as the official repository and archive for aviation history. Seventy-six individuals have been inducted into the hall of fame and their biographies can be found at www.tnaviationhof.org.
The calendar may say November, but temperatures and precipitation more common in January are forecast for the next few days.
Greene County, Greeneville and Tennessee Department of Transportation crews say they are ready for whatever the weather decides to bring.
According to the National Weather Service, a strong cold front pushed into East Tennessee overnight Monday with rain showers turning to snow. The snow showers are to linger and taper off during daytime Tuesday, with light snow accumulations possible in the higher elevations. Accumulations of less than half an inch are anticipated.
Bitterly cold windchill values are forecast for Tuesday night with temperatures dipping to 15 degrees. The high temperatures forecast for the remainder of the work week are in the 40s.
Greene County Road Superintendent Kevin Swatsell said the county highway department’s stocks of salt and chat are full.
Trucks have been filled with salt and snow plows attached to trucks in preparation for responding to any slick roads, he said.
“We are keeping an eye on the weather and are ready to respond,” he said.
Assistant Director of Greeneville Public Works William Barner said that the department was preparing trucks and snow plows for the forecast precipitation on Monday.
The town has 300 tons of salt along with chat.
“We will be prepared,” Barner said.
In addition to city streets, the department also will be cleaning the state routes through the town through its agreement with TDOT.
The state Department of Transportation planned to have its crews report early in the morning Tuesday and head to designated routes shortly thereafter, according to Mark Nagi, TDOT community relations officer for Region 1, East Tennessee.
“We will continue to monitor weather forecasts to adjust as necessary,” Nagi said.
Veterans Day is not just a day for those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces, but for all Americans.
That was the theme expressed Monday during the annual Veterans Day Service, hosted by American Legion Post No. 64 and the Greene County Honor Guard.
“It is not Veterans Day for a veteran,” Post No. 64 Commander Larry Davis said in opening of the service. “It is not a day for only veterans. It is a holiday today for all of us. It gives us an opportunity to say thank you.”
About 200 people gathered for the service in Veterans Memorial Park.
That theme of gratitude for service was continued by featured speaker Dr. Kenneth Nickle, a local physician who is also a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and has been deployed overseas several times.
Veterans Day not only honors those who have given the ultimate sacrifice and those who served in the military who are still living, but also gives hope for the future, showing young people the honor in entering the service, Nickle said.
A veteran is defined as a person who has served in either the regular armed forces or the reserves, he said. In 2018, there were 18.2 million living veterans in the country, which sounds like a large number until looking at the entire population of 321 million, he said.
“That is 5.5% percent of the country,” Nickle continued. “It means that not everyone is cut out to serve in the military. … People join for many different reasons, but once you put on that uniform, you sacrifice your time in service for your country. You give your all when you go into the service.”
He recounted the history of Veterans Day, which began as Armistice Day in 1918 to honor those who served in World War I and became a holiday to honor and thank all of those who have been in the military forces in 1954.
“Veterans Day is really a time to think of all veterans,” he said. “It is a time to reflect on the importance of what veterans are doing and have done. I want to say say thank you to each veteran. God bless all veterans and God bless the USA.”
Prior to giving an update on the Veterans Memorial Park, its committee chairman, Grady Barefield, spoke of what veterans have given to the country.
“We need to ask ourselves as a nation, ‘Are we doing as much for our veterans as they served us?’” Barefield said. “Veterans bled and sacrificed to give us the freedoms we enjoy today. It is impossible to put a price on that.”
Barefield noted that the latest monument with names of veterans from Greene County was put in place last week, and more names are being collected for the next one. Brochures about the process are available at the U.S. Post Office in Greeneville and local businesses, including offices of The Greeneville Sun.
During the service, Gold Star Mother Kelli Reed was recognized for the loss of her son, Brandon, during fighting in Iraq. Two other Gold Star Mothers, Donna Ball and Linda Thompson, were to be recognized but were unable to attend the service. Gold Star Mothers are those who have lost a child or children in armed conflict.
Charlotte Snyder performed by the National Anthem and “God Bless America.” Before singing “God Bless America,” she said it was written by Irving Berlin as a prayer of peace and first performed by Kate Smith on her radio program.
“It is usually sung loud and bold,” she said. “The song really speaks to the situation and challenges that America is facing today.”
As part of the service, the Honor Guard fired three volleys and the Honor Bell was rung.
A Civil War cannon and wagon were also brought to the park for display.
The service was the result of efforts of several groups. Barefield thanked the Veterans Memorial Park Committee, Central Baptist Church youth group, and volunteers from the Greene County Sheriff’s Department who helped prepare the park for the service.
Takoma Adventist Academy was thanked for providing its soccer field for parking, and Russell Ooten of Premier Buses was recognized for providing a shuttle to the parking area.
Barefield also expressed thanks to the Greeneville Police Department for blocking traffic around the park and Greeneville-Greene County Emergency Medical Service for having a unit on site in case of an emergency.