Police chief’s son indicted on weapon, cop impersonation charges

Jeff Bobo • Aug 27, 2013 at 11:30 PM

ROGERSVILLE — A police chief’s son accused of impersonating a cop and detaining a motorist while in possession of a badge, automatic rifle, and SWAT equipment this past December was indicted Monday in Hawkins County on one felony and two misdemeanor counts.

Nathaniel Ryan Robinette, 21, 664 Heck Hollow Road, Rogersville, was arrested Dec. 14, 2012 after allegedly detaining a motorist at the Rogersville Walgreens parking lot and searching the vehicle while identifying himself as a police officer and brandishing a badge.

Robinette is the son of former Bean Station Police Department Chief Phil Robinette, who resigned the day after his son’s arrest. Phil Robinette was also a former detective with the Rogersville Police Department.

Aside from having a Bean Station police badge, Nathaniel Robinette also allegedly had a fully automatic M-16 rifle and SWAT gear from the Bean Station Police Department in his vehicle at the time of the bogus traffic stop.

On Monday a Hawkins County grand jury indicted Nathaniel Robinette on one count of possession of a prohibited weapon, a Class E felony, as well as misdemeanor criminal impersonation and misdemeanor false imprisonment. He remains free on his original $10,000 bond pending arraignment Friday in Hawkins County Criminal Court.

Authorities have not yet offered an explanation as to how Nathaniel Robinette allegedly came into possession of the BSPD badge, M-16 rifle, and SWAT equipment. If those items were stolen from the BSPD, the thefts would have occurred in Grainger County and would constitute separate charges in a different court jurisdiction.

Bean Station Mayor Terry Wolfe told the Times-News Tuesday that his town’s internal investigation is completed and the information has been forwarded to Fourth Judicial District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn to determine what, if any, additional charges might be placed.

Wolfe said he could not comment on how Nathaniel Robinette allegedly came into possession of the badge, rifle and equipment while the outcome of the investigation is pending.

“We do the investigation and the D.A.’s office does the prosecution,” Wolfe said. “It’s a joint thing, and if there’s any criminal violations there, I would expect something to be prosecuted.”

According to Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office reports, on Dec. 14, 2012 around 9 p.m., Nathaniel Robinette, driving a yellow Chevy Cobalt, blocked another motorist in the parking lot of the Rogersville Walgreens 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 allegedly threatened to take the victim to jail and then searched the victim’s vehicle. After the search was completed, Nathaniel Robinette let the victim go, and the victim called 911 and reported the incident.

Nathaniel Robinette was stopped by the HCSO a short time later and allegedly admitted to a detective that the allegations were true.

Nathaniel Robinette was wearing “plain clothes” at the time of the alleged incident, but he was also allegedly in possession of police uniform patches and a variety of other police equipment including a Kevlar helmet, bulletproof vest and fatigues.

There were also four loaded magazines with the fully automatic Colt M-16 police allegedly seized from Nathaniel Robinette.

Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said he didn’t believe the motive for the incident was theft or something more sinister. Lawson said Nathaniel Robinette "just wanted to be a police officer.”

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