Train vs pedestrian report leads police to marijuana, mushroom growing operation

Jeff Bobo • Feb 14, 2014 at 6:34 PM

SURGOINSVILLE — A Southern Railroad engineer thought he’d struck a man late Thursday night in Surgoinsville who was flashing his middle finger at the approaching train and then tried to jump off the tracks at the last second.

Police later followed footprints in the snow from the railroad tracks to a nearby residence where the man was found, along with marijuana plants and psychedelic mushrooms growing in a jar.

Shortly before midnight Thursday, the HCSO and Surgoinsville Police Department were dispatched to the Southern Railroad crossing at Vine Street in Surgoinsville on a call of a pedestrian possibly being hit by a train.

The engineer told police they observed a man standing on the tracks “flipping them off” before attempting to jump out of the way at the last second.

The engineer thought the man had been struck by the train, and police and firefighters responded to search the area.

Officers Zach England and Mitch Hunley reportedly followed footprints in the snow to the residence of Nathan Thomas Lepsch, 21, 222 Vine Street, Surgoinsvlle.

In an attempt to determine if anyone needing medical attention was inside the residence, officers made contact with Lepsch, who they described as “acting in a very erratic and disorderly manner” but with no signs of injury.

When officers asked to check the residence to make sure no one else there had been injured by the train, Lepsch allegedly became combative and had to be restrained.

While looking for other persons, officers allegedly found a marijuana plant growing in a bedroom, as well as two jars containing what was suspected to be a psychedelic mushroom growing operation.

A box in the master bedroom also allegedly contained items associated with growing marijuana including plant food and potting soil.

Lepsch was charged with possession of Schedule I narcotics (hallucinogenic substances), possession of marijuana, felony possession of drug paraphernalia, maintaining a dwelling where narcotics are housed or sold, and disorderly conduct.

He was being held with no bond set pending arraignment Friday.

Shortly before 1 a.m. Lepsch’s father, Thomas Christopher Lepsch, 57, same address, parked a Ford Expedition at the corner of Vine Street and Church Street and told police that he lives at 222 Vine Street.

Police told Thomas Lepsch there was an incident at that address and he would have to wait at his vehicle until it was under control.

HCSO Scott Alley stated in his report that Thomas Lepsch said he needed to go home, and was told again he couldn’t.

“At that time Lepsch started walking down Vine Street toward his residence and refused to obey orders to stop,” Alley said. “I then attempted to restrain Lepsch and escort him back to his vehicle, at which time he resisted and became combative. Lepsch was taken to the ground, and after a brief struggle, he was handcuffed and taken into custody.”

Thomas Lepsch was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

He was released from jail on $3,750 bond, and will be arraigned Tuesday.

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