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Culberson case report

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Mike Culberson

UPDATE: Walker County State Court Judge Billy Mullinax dropped charges of affray and disorderly conduct against Mike Culberson on Jan. 10. Art Berry pleaded guilty to an affray charge in October.

UPDATED Sept. 13 10:15 a.m.: Former LaFayette High School Principal Mike Culberson's neighbors say he has harassed them for about a month.

Alexandria Berry said Culberson stopped by her house a couple weeks ago and began taking pictures. When she confronted him, she said, he told her he was reporting her house to the local homeowner's association. Asked why, she said he told her the house looked like "garbage."

She said he continued taking pictures after she asked him to stop. She called the sheriff's office, and Culberson left. After that, she said Culberson continually drove by her house. She believes he was trying to intimidate her family with his loud truck. She has asked for a hearing in Walker County Magistrate Court, requesting criminal warrants be issued against him for harassing her. The hearing is scheduled for this Monday, she said.

"I feel threatened by him," she said this morning. "I don't feel safe when that man drives by my house. Every time I see a red truck, whether it's his truck or another truck, I get afraid."

Nicholas Berry, 18, said Culberson drove by their house four times Sunday, sticking out his middle finger and yelling obscenities at the family. He said his father, Art Berry, marched over to Culberson's house to confront him.

Nicholas Berry, who graduated from LaFayette High School under Culberson's leadership in 2016, denied Culberson's report that he stole the principal phone that day. He said he pulled his father away from the confrontation, but Culberson then tackled Art Berry on a neighbor's property, sat on top of him and put him in a headlock. Nicholas Berry said he then hit Culberson in the head with Culberson's phone, trying to push him off his father.

Alexandria Berry said she did, in fact, grab a rifle from her house during the fight. But she never intended to fire a shot.

 "The point about me and the rifle is being blown out of proportion," she said.


ORIGINAL STORY: Mike Culberson, the former principal of LaFayette High School, was arrested Sunday after a fight with a neighbor that included a revved truck engine, punches, a headlock and, finally, a rifle.

According to an incident report from the Walker County Sheriff's Office, the argument began after Culberson drove by the home that backs up to his in Rock Spring around 5:30 p.m. Culberson said the noise of his truck was loud, making it sound like he was revving his engine.

But the teenager at the house, Nicholas Berry, said Culberson actually stopped, stuck out his middle finger and yelled out curse words. (Culberson, who said Nicholas Berry was his student when he was principal, denies this.) Berry relayed the story to his father, Art, and the two walked over to Culberson's house.

In his Chevrolet Silverado, Culberson watched the two men approach and began to record a video on his cellphone. According to the incident report, the video shows Art Berry walk up to the truck, argue with Culberson and punch him in the face. His son tried to pull him away. At some point, Culberson said, Nicholas Berry grabbed his cellphone and ran to the backyard — which runs into the Berrys' property.

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Arthur Berry

There, a fight began. Culberson and Art Berry struggled, ending with Culberson on top, squeezing Art Berry into a wrestling-style headlock. Nicholas Berry said he then punched Culberson, hoping to jar loose his former principal's hold on his father.

During that fight, Culberson began to record another video. An investigator later said you can hear Nicholas Berry yell for Culberson to get off his father, telling him that Art Berry can't breathe. Culberson, in turn, told Nicholas Berry that his actions were justified — they were in his yard, after all. Culberson said he would let go of Art Berry as soon as he and his son left him alone.

As that was going on, Berry's wife, Alexandria Berry, called 911 and retrieved a Ruger 10/22 from somewhere in the house. A dispatcher told her not to get the gun, but she later said to an officer that she felt she had to get the weapon. She never planned to shoot it, she said, but she was afraid, what with her husband in a headlock.

At any rate, according to the report, the officer arrived soon after, and the fight broke up. He said Alexandria Berry lifted her gun in a non-threatening manner.

"I am not a law professor," Culberson said later, after reading his arrest report. "But if she carried a loaded weapon out into a neighborhood street, I don't care if she's holding it with her teeth. How can it be non-threatening?"

After the officer arrived, according to the report, Culberson collapsed. Paramedics and EMTs brought him to a local hospital. When doctors released him, Culberson went to the Walker County Jail. He thought he was going to provide an investigator with more information about what happened before the fight.


Instead, the sheriff's office charged him and Art Berry with affray and disorderly conduct. Culberson criticized the sheriff's office for relying on members of Art Berry's family to provide details about what happened. He thinks about 10 neighbors witnessed parts of the fight.

"I'm frustrated and furious and feel I've been treated very unfairly," he said Tuesday evening.

Earlier this year, the Walker County Board of Education declined to renew Culberson's contract after months of friction between him and Superintendent Damon Raines. In particular, Culberson objected to a central office employee whom Raines had moved to LaFayette High School, asking her to serve a similar role to that of a guidance counselor. Specifically, the employee worked with students at risk of failing to graduate.

Culberson said he believed Raines was taking too much power away from the school's other guidance counselors. He then wrote emails to the superintendent from addresses that belonged to those guidance counselors. Pretending to be them, he complained about the new central office employee.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-7576476 or Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.

This story was updated Jan. 24 at 12:42 p.m.