James William Arthur
CHURCH HILL — The Church Hill man accused in the Aug. 15 robbery of the Food City pharmacy was allegedly impersonating an undercover narcotics officer the day prior to the robbery, and he kept a video on his cell phone to prove it.
On the afternoon of Aug. 15, he allegedly handed a clerk at the Church Hill Food City pharmacy a note demanding a list of various narcotic drugs. The note also stated that if he did not get all the pills on his list, “all pharmacy workers will die.”
Arthur also allegedly stated verbally to one worker that if he didn’t get the pills within 20 seconds, he would shoot them all.
Photos of Arthur and his vehicle were retrieved from store surveillance, posted by local media, and within 24 hours Arthur had been identified and arrested.
Prior to his arrest, however, Church Hill police were already looking for a man matching Arthur’s description who had allegedly been accosting customers at the local Exxon station on Highway 11-W, claiming to be an undercover narcotics officer.
Store clerks reported an incident on Aug. 14 in which Arthur was allegedly bothering customers, and then made statements claiming to be an undercover drug officer with the Hawkins County and Unicoi County sheriff’s offices.
Church Hill Police Department Detective Kevin Grigsby said Arthur also discussed the store’s security with the clerks and asked them how often local police officers stopped in.
On the Monday following Arthur’s arrest, Grigsby obtained a search warrant for Arthur’s cell phone and discovered several suspicious photos, as well as a video allegedly taken by Arthur in which he followed and stopped a couple.
In the video, Arthur claims to be a narcotics officer and demands to search the couple’s vehicle.
HCSO Sgt. Nathan Simpson was then notified by Grigsby and took over the investigation because the incident took place outside the city limits in the Christians Bend community south of Church Hill.
Although the incident hadn’t been reported after it occurred, Simpson said he knew the couple and went to speak to them about what happened.
The couple were shown a photo array and reportedly picked Arthur’s picture out as the person who accosted them.
The victims stated that on Aug. 14 around 7:15 p.m., Arthur followed them after they drove out of the Church Hill Exxon. They stopped at an area on Dykes Road in the Goshen Valley community and asked Arthur why he was following them, at which time Arthur allegedly stated he was an undercover narcotics officer.
Arthur then allegedly followed the couple to their home on Christians Bend Road and demanded to search their car for drugs. Arthur reportedly had no badge and only a pair of handcuffs.
The victims reportedly told Arthur they had called the HCSO, a deputy was on the way, and they would only speak to an officer with a badge.
Arthur then said he would wait in the road off of their property for the deputy to arrive. At that point, Arthur stopped recording, and according to the victims, he left.
Grigsby said there were several photos of Arthur in his cell phone posing with handguns, an AR-15 and large quantities of drugs while he’s wearing T-shirts with decals stating either “POLICE” or “SHERIFF.”
Shortly after his arrest, Arthur was transported to a secure mental health facility in Chattanooga. Upon being returned to the Hawkins County jail on Thursday, Arthur was charged with two counts of criminal impersonation of a police officer by Grigsby, and one count by Simpson.
Arthur remains held in the Hawkins County jail without bond.