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Kingsport businessman Michael K. Locke killed in hit-and-run incident

Wes Bunch • Jun 24, 2014 at 10:25 AM

Former TN State Representative and Kingsport businessman Michael K. Locke, 61, was killed about 8 p.m. Monday when he was struck by a vehicle while standing on the shoulder of the Fort Henry Drive bridge in Colonial Heights. The driver of the vehicle, James D. Hamm Jr., of Kingsport, then fled the scene and was arrested a short time later.

Locke, chairman of the Bud Hulsey campaign for the 2nd District State House seat that he formerly held, was in process of placing a campaign sign when he was struck by a northbound 2003 GMC Yukon XL driven by Hamm, which veered from the traffic lane. The impact knocked Locke off of the bridge and into a ravine approximately 20 feet below, according to investigating Kingsport police.

Hamm fled the scene, continuing to drive north on Fort Henry Drive, then turning north on John B. Dennis Highway, police said. He took the next exit to Memorial Boulevard but mysteriously stopped on the shoulder of the exit ramp, according to police.

Sensing something was amiss, an alert passing motorist stopped and took possession of the vehicle's keys until Kingsport police arrived and took Hamm into custody. According to the report, Hamm exhibited multiple indicators typically consistent with someone under the influence of an intoxicant.

He was charged with vehicular homicide by intoxication, driving under the influence, leaving the scene of a motor vehicle collision Involving a fatality, and failure to maintain proper control of a vehicle. He was transported to the Kingsport City Jail where he remained confined pending arraignment.

Investigators from the K.P.D. Traffic Unit and Criminal Investigations Division responded. Further inquiry revealed that moments before the fatal collision, Hamm had stopped at Colonial Heights Package Store, located at 4311 Fort Henry Drive in Kingsport, police said.

After making a purchase, Hamm returned to his vehicle which he had left parked facing the store. Rather than back from his parking space, he drove forward over the curb, across a sidewalk, and into the exterior wall of the business. There was no damage to the building; however, a pedestal ash tray was crushed when it was sandwiched between the vehicle and the building.

Hamm then fled the parking lot northbound on Fort Henry Drive, driving directly to the scene where the fatality would occur approximately one mile away.

Police said the investigation remains active and anyone who may have witnessed the incident at Colonial Heights Package Store, the fatal collision, the location where Hamm eventually stopped, or any of his driving in between any of these key points is asked to contact the KPD Traffic Unit at 423-224-2750.

Locke, who briefly served as 2nd House District state representative after the 2002 passing of Rep. Keith Westmoreland, has been involved in Sullivan County Republican politics for 25 years.

Locke is a veteran who has also been an active community volunteer in a number of organizations, including the Kingsport Life Saving Crew, Lynn View Community Center Board, Parks and Recreation Board and Friends of Allandale. He was involved in the formation of the Sullivan County Young Republicans and is a past president of the Dobyns-Bennett High School Quarterback Club.

Locke was founder of the locally favorite Hot Dog Hut, a business he had grown from the ground up when he started it 38 years ago. He had served thousands of people through the years until he sold the business in 2009.

In 1977, Locke and business partner Tim Taylor first opened a restaurant on Lincoln Street called Dilly Deli. Three years later, they moved the business to Sullivan Street and renamed it Hot Dog Hut. He became the sole owner of the business when he bought out his partner's share in the mid 1980s. But he wasn't alone in the venture. Through the years he got help from his mother, Florence Locke, his mother-in-law Barbara Sanders, his wife Debbie Locke, and his son Hunter.

Locke built the restaurant's reputation in the community and was very involved in Republican politics when in 2002, he was appointed to fill the seat of the late State Rep. Keith Westmoreland. Locke served for six months in the Tennessee General Assembly but chose not to run for the seat, saying that he "had a business to run."

Locke began offering franchises of the business in the 1990s with locations developed in Gray, Colonial Heights and along John B. Dennis Highway in Kingsport.

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