Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, school district confirm investigation into alleged assault on Brainerd student

Staff photo / Brainerd High School is shown in 2019.

Hamilton County Schools officials are cooperating with the investigation of an alleged assault on a Brainerd High School student by a third-party security officer while on campus, as well as conducting their own investigation into the hiring of the security team, according to system's communications officer.

"Hamilton County Schools is fully cooperating with the ongoing investigation by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office into an incident at Brainerd High School on Jan. 5," Steve Doremus, the district's communications officer, said in a Tuesday email to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The student involved in the alleged assault said he was punched in the face by a security guard because he wouldn't take his hoodie off as he was entering the school campus and that he was also handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a Hamilton County Sheriff's Office patrol car for three hours, according to WTVC News Channel 9.

The student's mother told the TV station that her son had been diagnosed with a concussion by doctors at Erlanger hospital and added that an email from the Brainerd High School administration had been sent out to parents announcing new security measures were going to take place after the winter break.

Administrators at Brainerd High School could not be reached for comment.

Josephus "Joe" Reed, the owner of BigFoot Private Enforcement, told the Times Free Press that while the incident did not occur as the student depicted, he could not provide further comment because he is cooperating with the Sheriff's Office investigation.

Doremus said the school district is looking into how Reed's organization had come to work at the campus.

"HCS will conduct a thorough review of the incident to determine how and why the individual was brought in by the school to perform security-related activities," Doremus said. "Following that review, HCS will take any steps that are deemed necessary based on our findings."

Hamilton County Sheriff's Office spokesman J. Matt Lea confirmed there was an investigation into the incident and said he could not provide further comment.

Lea referred the Times Free Press' inquiries on Fleetwood's allegations to the office's legal council, Brian Bush, who provided no comment.

Brainerd High School has drawn attention from law enforcement on at least three occasions recently.

On Oct. 7, a Brainerd student was arrested after allegedly telling a teacher of plans to shoot up the school. On Dec. 11, Chattanooga police were investigating a shots fired call near the campus shortly before 7 p.m. Responding officers found evidence of gunfire at the school's parking lot that damaged several vehicles. On Dec. 12, another Brainerd student was arrested after allegedly bringing a loaded gun and marijuana to campus.

Last year, the Hamilton County -- approved $1 million to ensure each school within the district had either a school resource officer or a security officer on campus. The funding would add 28 school security officers, which would include support staff who could fill in when an employee was out sick.

Doremus, however, when asked if Reed was hired as part of the new budget plan, said there has been no authorization to hire any third-party security at any of the district schools.

"HCS administration does not employ and has not authorized the use of third-party security at any of its schools," Doremus said.

Contact La Shawn Pagán at lpagan@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.