As of Monday evening, Mount Carmel Police Department Lt. Kevin Ewing had charged the four men — ranging in age from 18 to 20 — with 12 counts of vandalism.
Ewing told the Times-News, however, that he expects that number to be closer to 25 by the time he makes contact with all the victims.
Through his investigation, Ewing determined that the men from Jellico, Jonesborough, Johnson City and Kingsport were traveling together along Highway 11-W in a Toyota 4Runner SUV on their way to Rogersville but made a detour into two Mount Carmel subdivisions — Seven Oaks and Tanglewood.
As the Toyota passed by a residence, one or more of the men would allegedly hang out the window and strike a mailbox with a baseball bat.
About 3:30 a.m., residents from the Seven Oaks subdivision heard the noise, observed the vehicle, and called in a description and direction of travel to Hawkins County Central Dispatch.
Church Hill Police Department Officer Chip Whitaker spotted the Toyota on Main Boulevard shortly after it entered his city and followed the vehicle to Old Stage Road, where he conducted a traffic stop.
Ewing then responded to the traffic stop, where the men were found in possession of a baseball bat. There were actually five males in the SUV, but upon interviewing them four allegedly implicated themselves in the mailbox vandalism.
Charged were Ian David Sizemore, 19, 2329 Jennings Drive, Kingsport; Wesley Fredrick Lick, 18, 1505 Cherokee Road, No. 20, Johnson City; William Stewart Ford, 20, 1232 Gray Station Road, Jonesborough; and Damien Chance Rhodes, 20, 429 Sunset Trail, Jellico.
Ewing said Monday evening he hadn’t been able to make contact with every homeowner whose mailbox was damaged or destroyed. He asked victims who haven’t been contacted by police to call 357-9019 to arrange for an officer to meet them and make an offense report.
“Several were high-dollar mailboxes that were destroyed, and a few were more generic plastic mailboxes,” Ewing said. “(The suspects) said they were just riding around, passing through on their way to Rogersville. As far as we can tell, they have no ties to Mount Carmel or any of the subdivisions they were in.”
No alcohol or drugs were involved, Ewing added.
“It’s rare that crimes like this get solved, especially when the suspects have no tie to the area,” Ewing said. “Fortunately the Church Hill officer was right on top of it. If it hadn’t been for the Church Hill Police Department, these guys would have got away.
“We strongly encourage everyone who had their mailbox damaged Monday morning to contact us because in this case we should be able get them some restitution.”