published Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Lookout Mountain police probing burglaries

Lookout Mountain, Ga., police Chief Todd Gann stood outside a house on Wood Nymph Trail on the afternoon of Aug. 28. On the driveway, he found a white Chevrolet Impala with the trunk popped open. And inside, he would find shards of glass, shattered next to the back door.

But now, from the front of the house, Gann spotted the back of a man, running away. Gann gave chase and caught him. Meanwhile, Gann's partner, Investigator Phil Shankles, saw another man in the back of the house.

Shankles ordered the man to the ground. He obliged. Eventually, Gann and Shankles would find another man inside the house. And, finally, they caught one more man trying to get away.

In all, police arrested four Chattanooga men and teenagers on burglary charges: 20-year-old Jamichael Jerome Norman, 17-year-old Kiaomee Deshawn Owens, 20-year-old Gabriel Lamar Vaughn and 19-year-old Eldrin Demetris Vinson.

Officers also charged the four men in connection with another Aug. 28 burglary in town, this one on Hardy Road. In that case, police found a shattered back window, empty drawers and empty cabinets. Four TVs were missing.

"The entire house had been ransacked," Officer Tommy Hedden said.

But the success of those cases is the lone bright spot in what officials call a confounding string of burglaries on both the Georgia and Tennessee sides of Lookout Mountain.

Between Aug. 5 and Aug. 29, police received reports of seven burglaries: three in Georgia, four in Tennessee. Each side also has seen one other attempted burglary, in which the culprits ran away after tripping alarms.

Such crime is uncommon on the mountain. In 2011 and 2012, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, that state's side of Lookout Mountain saw a combined four burglaries -- the same number as it saw in August alone.

Placing the other side's incidents in context is more difficult. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation breaks annual crime statistics down only by county, not by city and town. But some on the Georgia part of the mountain say three burglaries and one attempt in one month is uncommon.

"I do not recall having this many robberies in such a short period of time," said David Bennett, a City Council member and police commissioner.

Police on both sides said the investigations into the unsolved crimes are continuing. They hope the spree of burglaries is finished, and they hope arrests come soon.

But for now, they are advising residents on the mountain to look out for any suspicious behavior. And, Gann said, if you see anything, call police.

The arrests on Aug. 28 -- the only arrests thus far -- came after a neighbor reported strangers sneaking around someone's yard.

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

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