Police: Chattanooga school patrol officer fired after attempting to steal tornado relief items from church

Police: Chattanooga school patrol officer fired after attempting to steal tornado relief items from church

June 16th, 2012 by Beth Burger in News

Tornado relief items are seen at Greenwood Baptist Church in this March 5, 2012, file photo.

Photo by Kate Harrison Belz/Times Free Press.

A Chattanooga Police Department school patrol officer was fired after police said she attempted to steal relief items for the March 2 tornado victims from a church.

Kristina Hopkinson, 27, who is not a sworn police officer, was fired earlier this month, according to a police internal affairs report released this week.

On March 8, Hopkinson and two other women loaded the items into her car at Greenwood Baptist Church, a disaster relief site, according to the report. She was still wearing her city-issued uniform, the report stated.

Hopkinson, who hopes to be a police officer, said the incident was a misunderstanding. She said she is appealing the termination.

The report stated that after Hopkinson and the others left the church, a police officer pulled over the car and the items were returned to the church. She told a sergeant she was getting the items, valued at approximately $500, to help her cousin, whose home was damaged, the report stated.

Internal affairs investigators eventually found her cousin, who wrote on his Facebook page that "The damage is minimal our fence is trashed but it's not as bad as it could have been."

When asked about the information in the report about minimal damage, Hopkinson said, "That's what they say, but he told me he had damage. I went to get him some help."

Butch Rogers, who coordinated relief efforts at the church, told investigators many of the people showing up to collect supplies were "distraught," but Hopkinson and the two other women with her acted "as if they were on a shopping spree," the report stated.

"While most of the needy people there were only collecting what they primarily needed, Hopkinson and the others appeared to randomly be grabbing several items, going table to table," the report said.

Hopkinson earlier had told her supervisor, Alma Carter, that she planned to go to the church later because "they were giving stuff away for free," according to the report. Carter told her the items were for storm victims.

Two sworn police officers at Chattanooga have been suspended in unrelated cases, records show.

n Officer Justin Headden was suspended for two weeks for conduct unbecoming after he spotted a 21-year-old woman at Waffle House near Signal Mountain, ran her license plate to learn her identity and began sending her messages on Facebook. He was ordered not to contact the woman and was assigned to a different zone, a report said.

• Officer Rene Hernandez, 26, was suspended for one week for violating the department's code of conduct after he appeared intoxicated at the Track 29 nightclub with his girlfriend in April.

The couple was spotted touching and fondling while she was dancing in what appeared to be her underwear near the front of the stage, a report said.