KINGSPORT - A city businessman’s concern that camouflaged, on-duty Kingsport Police Department vice squad officers may have been surveilling staff on his property in violation of KPD policies has Police Chief Gale Osborne conducting an internal investigation of an 18-year veteran of the force.
Wyoming native Chris Alexander’s Alexander Prosthetics business currently serves the needs of many local law enforcement officers. So he was extremely disturbed Aug. 27 when he learned that two camouflaged individuals his staff had chased from their position about 12 feet into the woods behind the business were apparently on-duty KPD vice squad officers.
One question Alexander seeks an answer to is whether they had a legitimate purpose for the video surveillance.
Osborne says he is working on an answer.
“(The incident) was brought to our attention last week,” he said Wednesday.
The concern Alexander has expressed to the KPD is that the officers, whom Timesnews.net has chosen not to identify, were sent by Tim Candler, who was just promoted to police corporal in 2006, to spy on his wife.
Candler’s wife was one of several staff members going out to their vehicles at the close of business that day, Alexander said. “She just happened to look up and see a face,” said Alexander. “I was sitting in my car ... she came down and grabbed me.
“This lady is a very, very nice lady. Yes, she’s in the process of a divorce, which is bad enough all by itself. But her husband’s been stalking her,” Alexander said.
“And he’s been warned by the Sullivan County sheriff not to approach her place of business, not to approach her home,” Alexander said.
“The Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office actually told (KPD) about it,” Alexander added.
“He’s already been reprimanded twice by Kingsport Police Department.”
Candler’s wife declined to comment at the request of her divorce attorney.
In response to his concerns, Alexander says Kingsport police had advised him the vice squad had set up surveillance in the parking lot after Candler reported suspicious drug activity at that location.
However, Candler’s report of suspicious drug activity should have gone to the TBI or the second judicial drug task force, rather than the vice squad, to avoid any conflict of interest, Alexander said he’d been told by KPD.
“We are doing an (internal) investigation to see if there are any policy violations,” Osborne said, “and that’s about all I can say about it at this point.”
Alexander says he and another male employee chased the men to a dark-colored Dodge Durango parked behind a clump of trees in a neighboring hayfield after they refused to answer when he demanded to know if they were in fact police officers.
The next day, Alexander drove to the place where the SUV exited the hayfield, nearly striking a cable that he says wasn’t there before.
A bit of yellow caution tape had been tied to the middle, and a lock that appeared new to Alexander secured the cable to a post.
Undeterred, Alexander walked into the hayfield, where tire marks were still visible in the dry grass as he demonstrated where he stood in front of the SUV and attempted to stop them from leaving. They swerved around him and exited the hayfield despite his efforts, Alexander said, and one man smiled and said “Have a nice day” before the vehicle drove through the only visible opening in the trees and out onto Highway 11-W.
“This is on public time, using public vehicles. We told (KPD) who they were, we told them what they were driving and it comes back a gold Ford Explorer,” Alexander said.
KPD told Alexander the Explorer was registered to a Joel Lopez Martinez, of 1714 Highland Street in Kingsport, which Alexander believes is bogus information, as the report lists only a name and address — no Social Security number, no birth date, no description of age, weight, height, race or sex.
But, Alexander added, it’s apparently standard procedure to provide bogus information for the vice squad officers to protect their identities. “We were actually told by the police that these are vehicles they have for undercover police officers, they got fake names on them and everything else.”
In response to a request for information to clarify vice squad policies, Osborne said, “No, not right this minute. ... I’ll be glad to talk to you, but I’ve got other priorities I’ve got to deal with,” and re-directed the request to KPD Deputy Chief David Quillin.
Quillin did not return a call requesting further comment.
Alexander said he also turned in a cell phone found at the scene that Candler’s wife identified as her husband’s, but the phone was not mentioned in the police report and Osborne was not initially aware of the cell phone’s existence.
Alexander said in the days after the incident he repeatedly called KPD to get to the bottom of what happened behind his business, but “nothing was happening. No police, no returned calls, nothing,”
Although the KPD report initially indicated there was “nothing further for follow-up,” other members of Alexander’s staff said Wednesday that KPD internal affairs investigator Cpl. Jason Bellamy had interviewed some of them about the contents of that initial report.