Chattanooga: Officer accused of shoving elderly store greeter appeals

Chattanooga: Officer accused of shoving elderly store greeter appeals

February 4th, 2009 by Adam Crisp in Local Regional News

The Chattanooga City Council will hear an appeal from the city police officer accused of assaulting a 71-year-old Wal-Mart greeter on Christmas Eve.

Officer Kenneth Freeman was demoted from detective to a patrol position and suspended for 28 days without pay late last month after an internal affairs investigation found he used excessive force, engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer and followed improper procedures.

The greeter, Bill Walker, touched Officer Freeman on the arm after asking to see his receipt and not getting a response, according to reports. Officer Freeman, who was shopping while on duty Christmas Eve, is accused of pushing Mr. Walker to the ground, then standing over him and shouting at him.

The City Council hearing will be held March 9, and the officer is expected to seek relief from the demotion and loss of pay.

On Monday, Mr. Walker filed a $21 million federal lawsuit against Mr. Freeman and the city of Chattanooga.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is conducting a criminal probe into the matter.

In other business, a report by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency shows the median age of Chattanooga's residents has increased over the last few years and that more people are living downtown.

Since 2000, residents' average age has risen from 36.8 to 38.8, the report found.

The findings were presented to the council's Economic Development Committee on Tuesday. The report noted that most of the city's residential growth has been downtown and on the city's edges.

It also reported a sharp decline in new housing starts. A total of 734 new dwellings were built in Chattanooga in 2008, compared to 1,449 a year before, an eight-year high for the city.

"I was not surprised at the drop," said District 2 councilwoman Sally Robinson, who also is a Realtor. "Real estate has had an ongoing price adjustment for the past 12 months. We have a high inventory of homes that are for sale, so that just means that developers are pausing.

"Chattanooga is faring a lot better than many other places," she said. "Tennessee wasn't one of about a half dozen states with a really bad foreclosure rate. Tennessee as a whole is doing better, and Chattanooga is doing particularly better."