published Friday, June 6th, 2014

No charges for Southern Adventist University student whose comments triggered campus lockdown

Former Southern Adventist University student James Gaines won't face any charges for comments he made Jan. 23 that led to a two-hour lockdown at the 3,000-student private school in Collegedale.

Gaines faced a charge of making false reports, which could have carried a three-year prison sentence.

But at a March 6 hearing, Hamilton County Superior Court Judge David Bales agreed that Gaines wouldn't have to serve any jail time provided he agreed to continue counseling he already had begun, perform eight hours of community service and issue a letter of apology. Gaines was scheduled then to have a hearing in 90 days to make sure he satisfied the requirements.

It was held Thursday afternoon, and the charge was dismissed, according to online Hamilton County court records.

Neither Gaines nor his attorney, Lee Davis, could be reached for comment.

Chattanooga State Community College's director of enrollment services, Kisha Caldwell, set events in motion that led to the lockdown when she reported remarks Gaines made to her.

Frustrated that he couldn't get a transcript he needed from Southern to get into Chattanooga State on the final day to register for spring classes, Gaines told Caldwell that morning that he might have to "strap a bomb on me" and "put a gun to their head," to get it, according to the affidavit for Gaines' arrest. He also said, "I'm sorry. I'm just kidding."

In a letter of apology that Gaines wrote to Caldwell, he said, "I feel terribly that I put Ms. Caldwell in a position where she thought that my statements could be a threat."

"[She] was incredibly helpful throughout the entire process of helping me continue my education," Gaines' letter said. "I deeply regret that my choice of words put her into an uncomfortable situation."

Gaines decided against attending Chattanooga State after the incident.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.

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about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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