Police seek source of flattened tires in Chattanooga

Police seek source of flattened tires in Chattanooga

October 9th, 2012 by Cliff Hightower in News

Chattanooga public works employees Sherman Sales, left, and Milton Stewart use rolling magnets to pick up metal debris on Dodds Ave after numerous flat tires were reported over the weekend. Public works employees walked the majority of Chamberlin Ave. to Rossville Blvd. as well as some side streets with the magnets.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

The tire business in Chattanooga was very good on Monday.

Car upon car pulled into area tire stores after a load of debris along Dodds Avenue apparently caused dozens of flat tires.

Elizzabeth Biel, a teacher at Howard High School, finally got her car repaired several hours after taking it to Quality Tire Center on Cherokee Boulevard. There were plenty more there just like hers.

"They have a parking lot full of flat tires," she said.

A mystery remains about what happened Sunday evening when reports started coming into citywide services and the Chattanooga Police Department about debris on Dodds Avenue and tires going flat.

Steve Leach, administrator of the city's Department of Public Works, said more than five pounds of roofing tacks were picked up off Dodds on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning by city crews.

On Sunday afternoon, customers at the National Tire & Battery Auto Center on Rossville Boulevard said they repaired multiple flat tires after motorists said they drove on Dodds overnight and Sunday morning.

Reports were coming in Monday of cars rolling into area tire stores with their passenger side tires flattened. Leach said he thought it could just be accidental.

"Who knows?" he asked. "It could have been a roofing company. It was probably, 'Oops, it fell off my pickup truck.'"

But Don Fritt, salesman at Quality Tire, said he wasn't so sure.

By 3 p.m., Quality Tire had repaired at least 20 tires and still had more to go, he said, but one thing struck the workers as strange.

"Most of these are just puncture[s] with nothing in them," he said. If roofing nails were the culprit, "they would be in the tires."

Some customers were coming into the store with slashed sidewalls, which roofing nails would not cause, he said.

The Chattanooga Police Department also is perplexed.

Chattanooga police spokesman Officer Nathan Hartwig said an investigation is under way.

He said he thought most of the punctures were caused by the roofing tacks, but acknowledged that, in recent days, there have been more complaints of slashed tires across the city than usual.

"Is it coincidence it happened at the same time?" Hartwig asked. "I don't know."

Hartwig also emphasized that police were able to eliminate one cause of the flat tires. Some people speculated that a spike strip used in a police pursuit caused the flats. However, Hartwig said there was no police pursuit along Dodds Avenue.

Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com/cliff.hightower.