Kingsport Times News Monday, December 22, 2014

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Update: Suspect in hit-and-run death of Kingsport businessman charged with DUI days prior

June 24th, 2014 1:04 pm by Rain Smith

Update: Suspect in hit-and-run death of Kingsport businessman charged with DUI days prior

Times-News file photo of Michael K. Locke.

KINGSPORT — A prominent Kingsport businessman was killed Monday evening when struck by a vehicle along a city roadway, with a suspect in the incident arrested after reportedly fleeing the scene.

The arrest marked the man's second in just four days for reportedly driving drunk during a hit-and-run, while the death of Michael K. Locke, 61, has left many grieving in the Model City.

Locke was founder of the local favorite Hot Dog Hut, a business he had grown from the ground up when he started it 38 years ago. He sold the restaurant in 2009.

At the time of the fatal Monday evening incident, according to Kingsport police, Locke was placing a campaign sign along a Fort Henry Drive bridge. The impact reportedly knocked Locke off the bridge and into a ravine approximately 20 feet below.

Locke was the chairman of former Kingsport Police Officer Bud Hulsey's campaign for the state 2nd House District seat, a position Locke himself formerly held.

"Mike's death is a tragedy of the worst kind," said Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips. "The city's sympathy and hearts go out to the entire Locke family. I know words can never comfort them, but I want them to know that the entire city is grieving with them."

Charged in the incident is James D. Hamm Jr., 44, of 304 Millington Court. It's his second arrest in four days for DUI after allegedly leaving the scene of a crash, with charges of vehicular homicide by intoxication added in the Kingsport fatality.

According to Kingsport police, the incident occurred just prior to 8 p.m. on a bridge that's north of Sonic Drive-In, 3845 Fort Henry Drive. Locke and another man were placing a sign for Hulsey's campaign when a northbound 2003 GMC Yukon XL veered onto the shoulder and hit him.

Police say the Yukon, which they later learned was driven by Hamm, continued traveling north on Fort Henry Drive and turned onto John B. Dennis Highway. KPD Public Information Officer Tom Patton reports Hamm then stopped on the shoulder of the ramp for unknown reasons, with a passing motorist sensing something was amiss and stopping. That individual reportedly took possession of Hamm's keys until officers arrived.

Hamm reportedly exhibited multiple indicators consistent with someone under the influence of an intoxicant. He was arrested and transported to the city jail.

Investigators from the KPD Traffic Unit and KPD Criminal Investigation Division responded to the scene. They allegedly learned that Hamm had stopped at Colonial Heights Package Store, 4311 Fort Henry Drive, just prior to striking Locke along the side of the road.

After making a purchase in the store, according to police, Hamm returned to his vehicle. Rather than backing from his space, Hamm allegedly drove forward over the curb, across a sidewalk, and into the exterior wall of the business.

There was no damage to the building, though a pedestal ashtray was crushed between his vehicle and the building. Hamm then left the parking lot and headed northbound on Fort Henry Drive, according to police, driving directly to the scene where the fatality would occur.

Keith Bell, director of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission, said his agency will investigate the incident. On Tuesday morning Bell said agents were on their way to the package store to see if video footage of Hamm's visit is available.

It's a misdemeanor offense for any retailer to sell alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated, according to Bell, or to sell to any person accompanied by an individual who is visibly intoxicated.

"That (charge) can be brought by local law enforcement or the ABC," he said, adding the package store's license is subject to revocation or suspension.

On Tuesday morning, the Sullivan County District Attorney's Office filed a motion to have Hamm's bond revoked in connection with Monday's arrest. That's due in part to his arrest just four days prior, when Hamm was charged with DUI after leaving the scene of a crash on Pickens Road.

According to a Kingsport Police Department crash report, the incident occurred Thursday at approximately 9:09 p.m. Hamm was reportedly driving his vehicle northbound when he crossed the center line, colliding with the driver's side of a southbound 2007 Ford Edge. Hamm allegedly drove from the scene.

As Sullivan County deputies were at the scene with the victim, Hamm reportedly drove past. A deputy then initiated a traffic stop, with Hamm allegedly exhibiting slurred speech and being unsteady on his feet.

A Sullivan County Sheriff's Office arrest report states Hamm was unable to perform field sobriety tests, telling an officer, "just take me to jail." During an inventory of his vehicle, police found a fifth of vodka in the floorboard.

In that incident, Hamm was charged with DUI and booked into the Sullivan County jail. He was released the next day after posting $750 bond. 

During Hamm's Tuesday arraignment in Kingsport, a judge revoked his bond from the Sullivan County arrest. As of Tuesday afternoon, he remained held in the city jail without bond.

He's 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.

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

He was a veteran and 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.

"We are deeply saddened and shocked by the sudden, tragic death of Mike Locke," read a statement from Hulsey's campaign to the Times-News. "This is clearly a loss felt by the entire community. Right now, our concern and prayers are with his wife Debbie, his son Hunter, brother Dr. Bill Locke, brother David Locke and his extended family, as we remember the legacy of one of the finest men to ever grace our community."

Kingsport police report their investigation into Monday's incident remains active. Authorities want to speak with anyone who may have witnessed Hamm's visit to the package store or the fatal collision. Police also wish to hear from anyone who spotted Hamm stopping along the John B. Dennis ramp or observed his driving between any of the above locations.

Potential witnesses are asked to contact the KPD Traffic Unit at (423) 224-2750.

Times-News staff writers Wes Bunch and Hank Hayes contributed to this report.

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