CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A Charlotte woman says buying a used car nearly resulted in her being killed by an off-duty police officer in Tennessee after he pulled a gun on her.
Tonya Jameson, a former Charlotte Observer columnist, posted about the incident, which happened nearly two weeks ago, on Facebook.
Jameson says she bought a used car from a woman in Knoxville in late April. She returned home to Charlotte to take care of the paperwork and returned to Tennessee on May 3.
"I rented a one-way rental from Charlotte, NC to Morristown, TN, and took an unmarked taxi to the woman's house on May 3," Jameson wrote in a blog about the incident. "I talked to her the day before and told her that I would be coming to pick it up and she could remove her license plate because I had NC plates. The car was parked in the same spot in her driveway as it was the previous week when I purchased it from her."
She said she was screwing in her North Carolina license tag when she heard "Hands up, I'm an off-duty officer."
Jameson says the man, who is the seller's son-in-law and a Knoxville police officer, had a gun pointed at her. She explained that she had purchased the vehicle and offered to show him the bill of sale and the registration, which were in her bag, and said the keys were in her pocket.
According to Jameson, the officer told her to put down the screwdriver she was holding and then he called 911 to report a suspected auto theft. It wasn't until after the 911 call that he holstered the gun and allowed her to put her hands down, Jameson recalls.
"I exhale and lean against the truck. He tells me to sit on the step beside the house," she wrote. "I again invite him to check the registration in my bag. I share various details about his mother-in-law. He tells me he knew she was selling the car, but she didn't tell him she'd sold it."
A Jefferson County deputy arrived to investigate the perceived car theft, she said. Her is a portion of her blog about the exchange.
I'm thinking this should finally be over, and I can be on my way back to Charlotte. The off-duty cop tells his side of the story. I tell the deputy I have the registration in my bag. Does he check it? Nope. Does he run the plates? Nah. I offer him the signed bill of sale and keys. Not good enough.
He tells me to call the cab company and tell the taxi to return to the house. The dispatcher says "sorry honey," but is willing to talk to the deputy. He doesn't want to talk to her. He wants to talk the woman who sold me the car, which no one can reach by phone. She's not home. She's out cutting the grass on a hill, and she isn't answering her cell. We've been over this already. No one can get her by phone.
I tell the deputy again that registration is in my bag, and it matches the VIN on the car. Or he can simply run the plates. He asks for the title. I tell him that I don't have the title with me.
He asks if I have the phone number of the woman who sold me the car. Yes. He asks for her number. I read it to him from my phone. He compares it to the number on the bill of sale. It matched. (I'm not sure what that proved). He still doesn't run the plate.
Since I was finally allowed to pick up my phone off the ground, I text a friend: "Cops here. They don't believe I bought the car. Just stay on the line…gonna call."
Jameson says the off-duty officer was able to get the seller's daughter on the phone and she confirmed the car was sold to someone in North Carolina.
"They let me go with a weak apology, and the typical, 'There've been a lot of burglaries in the area'," she wrote.
Jameson says she submitted an official complaint to the Knoxville Police Department internal affairs on May 8. The Jefferson County Sheriff says told her his deputy handled the call appropriately.
Officials with the Knoxville Police Department released the following statement to WBTV about the incident:
We are investigating a complaint on the allegation. PARC also has the complaint and is monitoring the investigation. This is an active investigation. We cannot release any information regarding the specific complaint filed until it has been completely and fairly investigated and all actions regarding the findings are resolved. We can advise that the complaint was filed by Tonya Jameson on May 8, 2017, against Officer Matthew Janish. The complaint is being investigated by Lt. Jerry Armstrong.
Officer Janish has been with KPD since June 2006. He is currently assigned to the Patrol Division. Officer Janish has never been the subject of an Administrative investigation or criminal investigation and has never received a counseling form or any other disciplinary action.
The officer's assignment has not changed. Decisions to reassign an officer are made by the Chief of Police and are based on several factors when an allegation is filed. The safety of the public is always the primary factor. Based on the preliminary investigation the Chief has determined the officer's work status remain unchanged.
KPD's policies and procedures are in effect at all times for our employees. Our Response to Resistance/Use of Force Policy is available for review on our website in the Open Records Page. All KPD Officers are certified by the State of Tennessee POST Commission. They are authorized to take appropriate police action when necessary. They also have the same rights as every resident of the State of Tennessee in regards to intervening in a situation to protect persons or property.
We cannot provide specific findings as to potential policy violations as that is part of the investigative review.
WBTV also reached out to Jefferson County Sheriff G.W. "Bud" McCoig but has not gotten a response.