published Saturday, April 14th, 2012

Man shot in gambling raid co-owns Chattanooga restaurant

Chief Bobby Dodd, third from left, speaks with police officers near the scene of an officer-involved shooting just after early Friday. Police raided an illegal gambling operation just off Gunbarrel Road and most of the participants were given citations, but one was wounded after drawing a weapon.
Chief Bobby Dodd, third from left, speaks with police officers near the scene of an officer-involved shooting just after early Friday. Police raided an illegal gambling operation just off Gunbarrel Road and most of the participants were given citations, but one was wounded after drawing a weapon.
Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

SEIZED ITEMS


• $26,393 in cash

• 3 vehicles

• 34 unidentified pills

• 3.3 grams of marijuana

• Gambling paraphernalia

• Laptop computer

The man shot Thursday night during a gambling raid on Gunbarrel Road is one of the owners of a local restaurant and also is awaiting trial for aggravated statutory rape and assault.

Clifford Billups, 32, who was treated at Erlanger hospital and taken to the Hamilton County Jail, is co-owner of Herman’s Restaurant on Brainerd Road. He has been charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and felony reckless endangerment, police say.

A woman answering the phone at the restaurant Friday said she had no comment.

Billups is one of 17 people who were charged Thursday night after police raided the office of ATC Healthcare, located in Suite 103 at 1618 Gunbarrel Road. Officers with the city’s Vice and Crime Suppression units arrived at 9:50 p.m. and broke down the suite’s door, said police spokesman Officer Wayne Jefferson.

Four men fled, including Billups, who was armed with two handguns, Police Chief Bobby Dodd said. When Billups drew one of the pistols, Investigator John Patterson with the Crime Suppression Unit shot back, hitting him, police said.

Under department policy, Patterson is on seven days’ leave pending an investigation.

No officers were injured in the incident.

Four suspects were arrested on gambling and drug-related charges, while 13 were cited for illegal gambling, a misdemeanor.

“I don’t know why someone would pull a gun and shoot at police over it,” Dodd said.

In September 2010, Billups was charged with statutory rape. He was charged with assault in June 2011. He had posted bond on the charges and is scheduled to be in court on both charges May 16 before Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern.

Details on the two charges were unavailable Friday.

Kenny Higdon, who owns businesses in the Gunbarrel Road building, including ATC Healthcare, 5 Star Home Care Services, ProDrug Screening and Xpedia Solutions, was charged with aggravated gambling promotion.

Attempts to reach Higdon on Friday were unsuccessful.

Dodd said the group played poker games with $1,000 buy-ins, and the group exchanged up to $100,000 a night.

Police had been collecting information on the ring for several months, Dodd said.

When asked why police were investing so much effort into misdemeanor crimes, he said that the group has been robbed before and he didn’t want another robbery to turn violent.

“It looks like a group of professionals,” he said of the generally middle-aged crowd, which included local orthopedic surgeon Neil Spitalny and Alexis Tarumianz, a well-known Chattanooga businessman.

Attempts to reach both men Friday for comment were unsuccessful.

The gamblers’ current game was held in an office park housing mostly medical professionals, a setting that provided a quiet place off the road where gamblers could park covertly and avoid detection, Dodd said.

“After hours, there’s nobody out here,” he said.

Employees at other businesses in the office park said they had no idea that there was a high-stakes gambling ring in their midst.

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