By MIKE STILL
NORTON — City officials say Norton Police Chief James Lane is recuperating after being shot during an incident Friday.
Norton City Manager Fred Ramey on Saturday said police chiefs from Bristol, Abingdon, Marion, Galax, and other localities came to Johnson City Medical Center Friday as Lane underwent surgery for wounds from the shooting.
Lane was in stable condition after surgery, according to a Saturday morning post on the city’s Facebook page.
According to the Virginia State Police, Lane was wounded after responding to an emergency call at the Murphy’s convenience store after 4 p.m. Friday. After encountering a man walking in the area, Lane was hit when the man opened fire.
Lane and another city officer returned fire, wounding 36-year-old James D. Buckland of Pound. Both Lane and Buckland were flown to Johnson City Medical Center.
“It was incredible the amount of support last night,” Ramey said, adding that Lane had worked his way through the department in a 25-year career starting as a patrol officer before becoming chief about 11 years ago.
“The chief started in the department’s law enforcement explorer post and then became an auxiliary officer before he was certified as an officer,” Ramey said.
“He’s always had an interest in law enforcement and the community.”
Norton Police Investigator Bucky Culbertson said that department First Sgt. Greg Mays and he will continue coordinating department operations while Lane recovers. Mays oversees the department’s patrol division and is first in rank after Lane, while Culbertson oversees investigations and 911 operations.
“He’s probably one of my best friends,” Culbertson said. “He treats everyone the same and with so much respect no matter who they are. He’ll be back, I’m sure.”
In a Facebook posting Saturday morning, city officials thanked people “for the outpouring of prayer and support that has been offered from across our region and Commonwealth.”
Ramey said he was able to visit and speak with Lane Saturday afternoon.
“He just amazes me and the rest of us with the strength and the faith he and his family have shown through all of this,” Ramey said. “We’re extremely proud of him and we’re doing all we can to support him and his family on the road to getting back to us as soon as possible.”
Wise County and Norton Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp III on Saturday said that he had no details available on Buckland’s condition.
Buckland was scheduled for a revocation hearing May 20 for offenses while on probation, Slemp said.
By MIKE STILL
WISE — Clear skies and cool temperatures marked UVA Wise’s return to in-person commencement ceremonies Saturday.
The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the college for more than a year was a theme in speeches during the ceremony, where 228 graduates joined more than 11,500 alumni from the college’s 67-year history.
The ceremony — the school’s first in-person commencement since 2019 — saw graduates, family and guests spaced across much of the Carl Smith Stadium football field and stands as Chancellor Donna P. Henry and UVA President James E. Ryan pointed to the challenges of learning during the pandemic.
“A year ago, every one of us were uncertain that public health conditions would allow us to be here today,” Henry told the mask-wearing graduates and guests. “In the last year and a half, you’ve been tested and challenged in ways never seen or fathomed. I know it has not been easy, and I applaud you for your determination, your resilience and your loyalty to one another and our community.”
“It’s no small feat to make it to graduation in the best of times,” said Ryan, “and you should take incredible pride in this moment.”
Ryan said he has been asked what lessons he has learned during the pandemic.
“What I tell people is that I’ve learned it’s a lot more fun to be president when there isn’t a pandemic,” Ryan said adding that the graduates need to ask what they have learned about themselves and their roles in the community and world while facing the outbreak’s challenges.
“These lessons are the ones I think you’ll carry with you and return to whenever you face headwinds along your journey,” he said. “The real lesson that I’ve learned this year is that it’s our students that fill me with hope and whose light shines brighter than even the darkest night, and for that I thank all of you.”
Alan Levine, CEO of Ballad Health, delivered the commencement address.
Levine pointed to three examples of adversity faced by people: the family of slain New York City police officer Rafael Ramos, starting a foundation in his name to serve their community; UVA Wise’s first African American student, Miriam Morris Fuller, who enrolled in 1960 at the height of educational segregation in Virginia; and Ballad Health nurse Jack Corbett, who brought special meals to a COVID-19 patient and arranged for her to be able to watch a sunrise to give her hope.
Quoting a 1954 speech by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on what makes America great, Levine said, “America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will no longer be great.
“The best legacy we can leave to young people,” said Levine, “is that we make the most of the liberty that’s been bestowed upon us. We do that when we have a servant’s heart, when we build positive relationships, and when we give joyfully.”
By RICK WAGNER
KINGSPORT — The Watauga Orthopaedics/Times News Relays returned this weekend after a four-year hiatus, bringing with it folks who helped organize the event, coached competitors or competed themselves.
You could call them the legends of the relays.
And although the track and field event did not include Southwest Virginia competitors, who weren’t allowed to compete in events outside of the commonwealth, it did include some from across Northeast Tennessee.
Those included a Unicoi High School junior who won first place in the shot put her first year competing and a Sullivan East High senior who won her first medal in a four-year track and field career.
The 41st edition of the relays, held at the Crowe-Coughenour Track at Dobyns-Bennett High School, began Friday afternoon.
It continued on a windy Saturday morning and wrapped up on an even windier afternoon.
The event drew 20 schools with about 240 competitors. The meet began at D-B in 1976. For context was the same year a Georgia peanut farmer named Jimmy Carter was elected president.
“This thing was so much a part of the track community, this Times News Relays, and it was an integral part of the season,” Pat Kenney, 74, and a retired Times News executive sports editor, said during a break in the competition Saturday morning. “It’s good to see it back.”
Kenney was director of the event from 1998 to 2016 and was involved in covering the Relays for the newspaper starting in 1990. The meet started with then-Executive Sports Editor Ron Bliss as director and was under the Times News banner through the 2016 event, after which Tri-CitiesSports.com operated it.
However, the event went back to the Times News and was to be held in 2020, but the Relays did not take place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event has returned to where it started, at D-B, although over the years it has been held at nearby Sullivan North High School under the lights and at Science Hill High School in Johnson City.
“This was a good opportunity to come back,” Kenney said of returning to help with this year’s meet. “I love track. Track and cross country are my favorites.”
The man at the microphone for most all of this weekend’s event, George Moody, is a familiar voice for those who have attended the Times News Relays and other track and field events in the region over the years. He quipped that his voice, amplified by the public address system, could be heard in Morristown, but it could for sure be heard at the nearby D-B band practice and baseball game that went on Saturday during the Relays.
“I had my teams here for 30 years,” said Moody, 72, and a former Daniel Boone High School track coach who retired in 2006. Of the 41 meets, Moody said he was involved in one way or another in about 35, in later years helping Kenney run the show.
“Tanner’s doing a great job on this meet,” Moody said, referring to new meet director Tanner Cook.
Kingsport firefighter Kevin Mitchell at the end of the day gave out the Outstanding Field Events Award named for him. He is a 1982 graduate of Powell Valley High School and said he did best in the 100-yard and 200-year dashes and the long jump. He went on to play football at Carson-Newman College, now Carson-Newman University.
Sullivan East High School Class of 1987 graduate Krista Hare Ivester also competed in the Times News Relays, and she gave out the Outstanding Female Field Events Award named for her. She went on to run track at Middle Tennessee State University. She is a teacher and former coach in Georgia. (Her brother is Sullivan East High School Principal Andy Hare.)
Dobyns-Bennett High School graduate and former University of Tennessee football player Teddy Gaines gave out the Outstanding Male Runner Award named for him. Gaines went on to be drafted by the San Francisco 49ers and was involved with some other NFL clubs. He now works for Goodwill and volunteers with the D-B football program.
All three said they were pleased the event could occur this year and said they were honored to give out plaques.
“It’s good to be able to get out and compete. These athletes work hard,” Mitchell said.
FIRST-TIME COMPETITOR SHELBY MILLEROn a hill overlooking the track was a cheering section for Unicoi High School junior Shelby Miller, who won the girls’ shot put competition and also competed in the discus contest.
”She’s pretty much a volleyball player,” said her father, Dave Miller, who along with his wife, Sandra, were there to cheer on Shelby along with the shot put competitor’s grandparents, Tonette, wrapped in a blanket to fight off the cold wind, and Glenn Jones.
”We appreciate you all sponsoring it. This is a great group of kids,” Sandra Miller said. “Boone (High) has some amazing runners, amazing athletes.”
”I’m so glad things are getting back to normal,” said Shelby, who is finishing her first year running track and field. “I would love to run track next year.”
LONG-TIME COMPETITOR ZOE DAUGHERTYZoe Dougherty, a senior at Sullivan East High, had her mother, Leslie Dougherty, in the stands cheering for her. “She runs cross country, too,” Leslie Dougherty said of her daughter, who will compete in a regionals track meet next week to wrap up her high school track career.
Her daughter doesn’t plan to pursue track and field in college but has received, among other scholarships, an East Tennessee State University scholarship funded by an endowment of the late U.S. Rep. Jimmy Quillen, R-1st, for $5,000 annually over four years.
”We never ran at D-B before. This is her first experience here,” the mother said. The daughter did the long jump, in which she finished last, and a four by two, in which her team of four won third place. The other team members are Emily Fain, Autumn Stanley and Riley Nelson.
Zoe Dougherty’s been in track and field for four years, but her mom said that was the first medal.
By MATTHEW LANE
KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Fire Department saw a 9% decrease in calls for service last year, most likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were fewer medical calls, fewer structure fires and vehicle fires, and no fire-related deaths.
When looking at the numbers, Kingsport Fire Chief Scott Boyd thinks the drop in calls — some 800 when compared to 2019 — was a result of people simply staying home during the pandemic.
“Folks were just not being out and the potential for accidents wasn’t there. People were home more and there’s not quite as much chance of catching diseases too,” Boyd said.
However, with so many people staying home, you would think the number of structure fires would have increased.
But that was not the case.
“You’d think folks being at home there would be more, but they may end up catching hazards before they become a larger fire,” Boyd said. “And there were no fire deaths (last year). We were absolutely lucky with that.”
Boyd recently issued his department’s annual report, which gives a breakdown of the types and number of incidents firefighters responded to last year and how those numbers changed since 2019. It also gives a brief history of the department, the highlights and major accomplishments of 2020, along with the KFD’s short-term and long-term goals.
• Firefighters responded to 7,639 incidents (compared to 8,413 in 2019).
• Number of structure fires: 72 (with a loss of just over $933,000).
• Number of vehicle fires: 34 (with a loss of $210,000).
• Number of medical calls: 5,596 (compared to 6,129 in 2019).
• Number of fire-related deaths: zero.
• Average response time: 7:28 (compared to 8:48 in 2019).
• Total fire loss: almost $1.2 million (compared to $2.9 million in 2019).
Kingsport is one of 32 communities across the state that enjoys an ISO rating of 2. Only five localities in Tennessee have an ISO rating of 1.
As of December 2020, the KFD had 122 personnel working in eight fire stations, serving a population of more than 53,000 residents living within 54 square miles. Kingsport’s ISO rating is 2 and 2Y.