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Tennessee state trooper involved in fatal motorcycle chase faces dismissal

Kacie Dingus Breeding • Jan 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

A four-year veteran of the Tennessee Highway Patrol learned this month his career is on the chopping block.

On Tuesday, the Tennessee Department of Safety revealed a second, separate internal investigation of Kyle Cantwell, who has served in Sullivan County since he officially became a THP trooper in January 2004. A press release entitled, "THP moves to terminate Trooper Kyle Cantwell," states that termination is warranted due to six additional violations against the officer.

The Department of Safety first launched an internal investigation into Cantwell’s adherence to departmental policies and general orders while the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation looked into his handling of an Aug. 19 motorcycle pursuit. It began on Interstate 81, with the Virginia State Police investigating the subsequent crash that killed the motorcycle rider, Justin Thompson, 18, of Kingsport.

That investigation concluded earlier this month that Cantwell committed five violations — mistakes that would cost him a nine-day suspension without pay.

“The first investigation shed light on the second investigation,” TDOS spokesman Mike Browning said Tuesday.

Authorities now say the latest inquiry indicates Cantwell “mishandled” a significant amount of evidence and often failed to turn in citations for prosecution, according to a TDOS press release.

Investigators found “evidence in the storage area above his desk,” “additional drugs and paraphernalia” in his patrol car, and 51 items more of mishandled evidence in his locker, the release states.

“The investigation revealed that Trooper Cantwell was remiss in his responsibilities of handling this duty (following procedures for collecting and safeguarding evidence required by General Order 546) on numerous occasions over an extended period,” said TDOS Commissioner Dave Mitchell.

No one was available late Tuesday to further discuss the nature of the new violations. Browning said the public affairs staff should be able to answer any questions during business hours on Wednesday.

Browning said Wednesday that Cantwell has been on administrative leave with pay since Jan. 11. Earlier this week, a hearing officer upheld suspension notices delivered to him and his superior, Sgt. Dennis Jenkins. Cantwell and Jenkins both are scheduled for additional appeals on Feb. 8.

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