Adrienne Cooper, the Black woman who had a gun pulled on her in St. Elmo by a white man last week, called on the City Council on Tuesday to hold the Chattanooga Police Department accountable for the way officers handled her case.
Cooper said a Facebook post by the police department was "an attempt to degrade my character and shift the focus from the crime of the story to my response, rather than the crime."
Cooper was joined by a handful of supporters at Tuesday's council meeting, calling for the department to publicly apologize for the way it handled the case. She said the incident could be used as a way to inspire police reform.
On May, 11, Cooper was driving home to her house in St. Elmo when she noticed a red pickup truck tailing her closely over the bridge on Broad Street near 28th Street.
Cooper said the driver was aggressively tailing her and when the two made it to the light near Walgreens, Cooper said the man cursed and yelled at her and the two exchanged words. The man continued to honk his horn, flash his lights, "running up on my car, slamming his brakes really quick," Cooper said, until she got to her street to turn off St. Elmo Avenue.
The man got so close to Cooper's car that she thought he was going to hit her car, she said. That's when Cooper decided to get out of her car to take photos of his license plate to report him to the police.
"He rolled down his window and pointed a gun at me," Cooper said. "I ran back to my car."
The driver, identified by police as 49-year-old Terry Nations of Flintstone, Georgia, drove off south toward the Georgia state line honking his horn, according to an affidavit.
Cooper's potentially dangerous run-in with the man was the beginning of her issues.
After the man drove off, Cooper called a non-emergency number for the Chattanooga Police Department. A half-hour later, Officer Blaine Price and a colleague arrived.
Cooper said Tuesday night that she probaby shouldn't have gotten out of her car to take a photo of the man's license plate, admitting it was a dangerous idea.
"However, I'm tired of feeling intimidated in my community and was attempting to report this man for his reckless driving," Cooper said. "Officer [Blaine] Price of CPD took absolutely zero care handling my case from start to finish. He neglected to give me a complaint card, was disrespectful and dismissive to me at the time of filing my report and even misquoted me in the affidavit, which is backed by bodycam footage."
After the interaction, Cooper called the police department because the officer left without giving her a case number to follow up on. When she called, she also asked for the officer's body camera footage from their interaction and said she planned to file a complaint. Cooper's attorney, Andrew Bateman, said the department denied their request and that Assistant Police Chief Glenn Scruggs had asked to meet with her Wednesday about it but Cooper declined, instead handing the issue off to Bateman.
In response to a social media post by Cooper about the road rage incident and the interaction with Chattanooga officers, the department published the body camera footage on its Facebook page a few hours after the department told Cooper and Bateman it could not send them the body camera footage.
Alongside publishing the body camera footage, the police department wrote on Facebook that the department "did not find that the officer was rude or disrespectful to the complainant. We did find that it was not clear or maybe some confusion as to where the 'road rage' incident began, but that was made clear by the end of taking the report."
"CPD works to engage with members of our community, and we understand an individual's response to a traumatic event," the post read. "We would have preferred a conversation prior to release. However, since that did not occur, we felt it was important to get more information to our community."
Local activist Marie Mott spoke in support of Cooper, who also served in the Navy.
"I cannot imagine what it is like to serve your country and come back home to the invisible Berlin Wall of racism," Mott said. "And for it to be justified to the Chattanooga Police Department, that obviously they protect white nationalism more than the citizenry, especially if you are Black and definitely if you're a woman."
Mott called Cooper courageous for speaking out and felt optimistic about the new faces on the council that she said she hoped would bring "fresh change" to the city.
Corey Evatt called the police department's Facebook post "a massive betrayal of public trust."
"I can only imagine a victim of domestic assault or sexual assault watching this story unfold, realizing that they can no longer expect confidentiality from the agency that swore to protect them," Evatt said. "How many times will these kinds of things now go unreported because of this, how many perpetrators of violence or abuse will never be brought to light, how many Chattanoogans and their children will decide, 'I'm better off if I just keep this trauma to myself and to report it?'"
Ginger Moss called for Price, Assistant Chief Scruggs, the person who posted the video and the person who approved the post to publicly apologize to Cooper.
In the body camera footage, Officer Price asked Cooper how long ago the incident occurred and asked, "You didn't want to call 911 while this was taking place?"
"And for the officer who even questioned why she didn't call 911," Moss said. "Why would a Black person call 911?"
"A woman's life was threatened, and the people who should have been making sure she was protected instead published her private information for anyone to see," Luke Varnell said. "Our city can and must do better."
In an email Tuesday night, CPD spokesman Jeremy Eames said Nations was arrested and the case is now pending in court. Nations was released on his own recognizance.
"There is nothing to update at this time," Eames said. "We have no control over bonds that are set. Sessions Court magistrates set those."
When asked if any allegation concerning this incident between Cooper and Nations had to do with race, Eames said the department's Professional Standards Division "will always fully investigate any complaints that are filed with them."
Contact Patrick Filbin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.