Bean Station police chief's son charged with impersonating officer

Jeff Bobo • Dec 16, 2012 at 6:12 AM

ROGERSVILLE — The son of the Bean Station police chief has been charged with impersonating a police officer for allegedly stopping a vehicle in Rogersville, detaining the driver and searching the driver’s vehicle — all while displaying a Bean Station Police Department badge.

Nathaniel Ryan Robinette, 21, 664 Heck Hollow Road, Rogersville, also allegedly had a fully automatic M-16 and SWAT gear in his vehicle at the time of the traffic stop Friday night. All the equipment belongs to his father’s department.

Bean Station Police Department Chief Phillip Robinette, a former Rogersville detective, tendered his resignation Saturday in the wake of his son’s arrest.

Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson told the Times-News that around 9 p.m. Friday, Nathaniel Robinette, driving a yellow Chevy Cobalt, blocked another motorist in the parking lot of the Rogersville Walgreens drugstore on Route 66.

Nathaniel Robinette allegedly turned on a blue light in his vehicle, flashed a Bean Station police badge at the victim and identified himself as a police officer.

“He threatened to take (the victim) to jail and then searched the victim’s vehicle,” Lawson said. “The car he was driving didn’t even look like a police car, but he did have a small blue light. After the search was completed and he (Nathaniel Robinette) let him (the victim) go, the victim called 911 and reported the incident.

“Our office had a description of the Cobalt, and a short time later he was stopped by Detective David Benton on East Main Street (in Rogersville). He was interviewed by Detective John Pruitt and admitted to everything.”

The information surrounding the circumstances of how Nathaniel Robinette came to possess the badges and other items from his father’s department weren’t available.

Bean Station Mayor Terry Wolfe stated in a press release an internal investigation of the police department has been initiated. Wolfe said the results of that investigation will be turned over to Fourth Judicial District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn.

As a result of Phil Robinette’s resignation, Sgt. Bryce Justice has been named interim BSPD chief.

Lawson said his department had received other complaints of suspicious traffic stops in the days previous to Nathaniel Robinette’s arrest, and those incidents are under investigation.

Although Nathaniel Robinette was wearing “plain clothes” at the time of the alleged incident Friday, he was allegedly in possession of police uniform patches and a variety of other police equipment.

“He had a lot of SWAT equipment in his trunk like a Kevlar helmet, bullet proof vest and fatigues,” Lawson said. “Deputies also found two Bean Station Police Department sergeant badges, two Bean Station Police Department uniform patches, a Bean Station Police Department Colt M-16 fully automatic assault rifle and four magazines.”

Lawson said the motive doesn’t appear to be theft or something more sinister.

“I think he just wanted to be a police officer,” Lawson said.

Nathaniel Robinette was charged with impersonating a police officer, false imprisonment, and possession of a prohibited weapon.

He was released from Hawkins County Jail after posting a $10,000 bond, and is scheduled for arraignment Monday.

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