published Friday, January 6th, 2012

Handshake resolves assault charge for Chattanooga police officer

Chattanooga Police Department Officer Gregory Chambers, left, shakes hands with Shawn Smith after assault charges against Chambers stemming from a road rage incident were dismissed in Judge Clarence Shattuck's courtroom Thursday morning. Shattuck had the men shake hands twice as he dismissed the charges.
Chattanooga Police Department Officer Gregory Chambers, left, shakes hands with Shawn Smith after assault charges against Chambers stemming from a road rage incident were dismissed in Judge Clarence Shattuck's courtroom Thursday morning. Shattuck had the men shake hands twice as he dismissed the charges.
Photo by John Rawlston.

What began as threatening words between a citizen and an off-duty police officer drawing a Taser ended Wednesday in an apology and a handshake.

Chattanooga police Officer Gregory Chambers, 37, and the alleged assault victim, Shawn Smith, stood before Hamilton County Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck during a brief hearing to resolve the altercation.

Assistant District Attorney Rex Sparks told the judge that the road rage incident between the two men was a result of "angry words and posturing and too much testosterone."

Sparks asked Shattuck to dismiss the assault charge against Chambers if the officer would apologize.

"Well, let me see you do it here, shake hands," Shattuck told the men, who stepped toward each other smiling.

Most of the courtroom laughed at the exchange.

"I don't think that was an adequate shake," Shattuck said and then had the men shake a second time before ending the hearing.

Chambers, 37, was placed on administrative leave following the Nov. 19 incident pending an internal affairs investigation and the outcome of his court proceedings.

Police Chief Bobby Dodd told the Times Free Press on Wednesday that Chambers would be assigned to an administrative job until the internal affairs investigation was complete.

He expected the investigation to end in the next 10 to 15 days.

After the hearing Smith said he was pleased with the outcome.

"It was intense at the time," Smith said. "If he'd have told me who he was, shown a badge, this would have been totally different."

Chambers, accompanied by his wife and fellow officer Lorin Johnston, deferred any questions to his defense lawyer, Johnny Houston.

"I think it's a result of both parties kind of reflecting on that night and frankly it's almost a throwback to old times," Houston said. "Things used to get resolved with a handshake."

"Both are good people," Houston said. "I'm just glad we were able to get it over with."

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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