published Monday, September 9th, 2013

East Ridge police claim hotel employees covered up shooting

Superior Creek Lodge
Superior Creek Lodge
Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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An East Ridge police officer accused the staff at Superior Creek Lodge of trying to cover up a shooting at the motel last month, but the business owner disputes his account.

Officer Anthony Brooks wrote in an incident report Aug. 21 that he responded to a report of shots fired at Superior Creek Lodge, located at 1410 Mack Smith Road next to Interstate 75. Someone in room 303 fired a shot at the floor. The bullet ripped through the ceiling of room 203, cut through a window and buried itself in the foam inside a column that supports the building.

Brooks said that when he got to the motel, a desk clerk named Teresa Dampier told him the shooting had happened 45 minutes earlier.

"I asked her why it took 45 minutes to call law enforcement," Brooks wrote in his report.

Police say the room was rented to Veronica Rivers. They have not arrested anyone, and the case has been transferred to a detective.

Brooks' report said Dampier told him employees did not call police because the motel has its own security. Plus, they weren't sure the noise was gunfire; they thought it might be fireworks.

But the report said a desk clerk named Janelle Pharris told Brooks a different story. Pharris claimed an employee called owner David Gysin, and Gysin said to keep the shooting a secret.

The report said security officer Robert Skelf told police that when he began looking into the shooting, employees told him to back off -- don't tell police, no matter what.

Gysin disputes this version of events.

"Within minutes, and I say MINUTES ... the manager phoned me," he recently wrote on the East Ridge Neighborhood Watch Facebook page. "And within SECONDS ... I told (the manager) to call the (East Ridge Police Department). How they come up with 45 min (sic) is a complete LIE AND FIGMENT of someone's imagination."

He also wrote that the police department only came to the motel after he called them to report the shooting.

East Ridge officials have opposed extended-stay hotels like the Superior Creek Lodge for years. In August 2012, the City Council passed an ordinance limiting hotel or motel stays to no longer than 30 days.

The ordinance didn't apply to existing extended-stay hotels. East Ridge is trying to shut down the Superior Creek Lodge in court.

In 2010, the city filed a petition to designate the extended-stay hotel as a public nuisance. The petition cited 2,654 calls for service between April 2006 and June 30, 2010, as well as building code violations and health hazards.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com

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