Chattanooga police nab four during gambling search warrant

Chattanooga police nab four during gambling search warrant

Property known for gambling arrests owned by former police officer

September 17th, 2013 by Beth Burger in Local Regional News

Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

On Monday afternoon, metallic cellophane paper covered a window and a sign that read "ID checked at door. No guns allowed. No drugs." was posted on the padlocked door to Top's Old School Spot, at 2716 Dodson Ave., where police have made numerous gambling arrests.

Police shuttered the business after a search warrant resulted in four people being arrested Friday on felony charges of aggravated gambling promotion and possession of a gambling device.

Grady Houston Harris, 72; Johnny Bryson, 67; Larry Ashford, 62; and Velma Bush, 67, were charged. Police said the four had illegal lottery slips and tip books. Harris also was charged with carrying a dangerous weapon with intent to go armed after police found a loaded revolver in his car.

Bryson, who has a lengthy record of gambling arrests, and Ashford also were arrested for gambling offenses in June, records show. The cases are pending in court.

Police said they believe the business belongs to Johnny Bryson.

"He's been in the money for years," Chattanooga police Chief Bobby Dodd said Monday.

Police often crack down on crimes like gambling because the illegal activity can lead to other crimes such as robberies. In this case, a total of $2,800 in cash was seized.

"I'm sure Bryson's been robbed several times over the years. He just never reports it," Dodd said.

Contacted by phone Monday, Bryson said, "I'm not interested" before hanging up. Not including this case, Bryson has been charged with gambling offenses 11 times since 1999, records show.

Dodd isn't sure the crackdown will have a lasting effect because the penalties under state law aren't stiff for gambling.

"He makes thousands, probably hundreds of thousands in gambling proceeds," Dodd said. "Getting another ... conviction or small fine is not going to deter him, especially this late in life."

Police have made gambling arrests at the same location in the past, according to a report. An exact number wasn't available by press time.

The property belongs to M.C. Commander Jr., a former Chattanooga police officer and Hamilton County 911 dispatcher. He never responded to an interview request submitted through Facebook.

Harris, Bryson, Ashford and Bush are scheduled to appear before Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck on Sept. 23.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at