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RB officer’s handling of arrest at Vina church under review

RED BAY – Amidst a packed council room, the pastor of a local church addressed members of the Red Bay City Council at Monday night’s meeting to express concerns about one of the city’s police officers.

Rev. Bob Massey, pastor at Hurricane Creek Baptist Church in Vina, said his concerns stem from an alleged incident that took place at his church after the evening services on June 2 that led to the arrest of one of the church’s deacons.

James Steven Scott, 61, Tuscumbia, was arrested for obstructing governmental operations and resisting arrest, according to Red Bay Police Chief Janna Jackson.

Jackson said Scott was arrested while a Red Bay police officer was conducting a search for a missing child.

Scott allegedly interfered with the investigation, but Massey told council members he thought the situation was handled in an “unprofessional” manner.

Massey said about two-thirds of the congregation had already gone outside after the service concluded on June 2 but he had remained inside to greet other members of the congregation.

He said he heard sirens approaching the church and had stuck his head outside the door to see what was going on.

“I saw a police officer from the Red Bay Police Department pull up,” Massey said.

“I didn’t understand the first thing he said when he got out but then he said there was a little girl missing and asked was she there at the church.”

Massey said they were able to locate the 7-year-old girl in question, who at the time told the officer that she had permission to go to church with neighbors.

Massey said the Red Bay officer, who was later identified as Sgt. Kyle Palmer, then asked to speak to the person who had brought the girl to church.

“Steve Scott, a deacon of ours, was at the fellowship hall,” Massey said.

“Someone went to tell him that a Red Bay police officer was talking to one of our church members so we went to see what was going on.”

Massey said when Scott approached Palmer, Palmer told him he “had everything under control” and to “shut up and get back.”

“Mr. Scott asked him if he was not a little bit out of his jurisdiction,” Massey said.

“The officer pushed Mr. Scott, got his cuffs out, placed them on his right hand, slung him to the ground and put his knees in his back.”

Massey said members of the congregation asked Palmer to let Scott up because he was sick and couldn’t breathe, but he said Palmer allegedly “pulled his gun, waved it at the congregation and yelled for them to get back.”

Massey said Scott’s wife was also not allowed to help her husband while he was being detained.

Massey said at this point, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Dep. Clint Holcombe arrived on the scene and the situation was diffused.

“This was very excessive force this officer used,” Massey said. “It was very unprofessional.”

Red Bay Mayor Bobby Forsythe thanked Massey and other members of the congregation who had packed the city’s council room for voicing their concerns.

Councilwoman Charlene Fancher, who serves on the city’s police committee, said the matter was being investigated.

“This is not being swept under the rug,” Fancher said.

“We are going by procedure. After all the complaints are reviewed, we will make a decision in this matter at that time.”

Chief Janna Jackson said eight complaint forms had been filed with the police department concerning the incident.

Jackson said as part of departmental procedure, anyone is allowed to file a complaint and each one will be reviewed.

“We go over each complaint form and bring in all witnesses and question them individually,” Jackson said.

“Once all the forms have been reviewed and all the witnesses have been interviewed, we will then compile all the information and it will be presented to the police committee. Once they review all the information, they will make a decision on whether disciplinary action should be taken against the officer.”

Because the investigation is ongoing, Jackson said she could not comment or elaborate on the officer’s version of events.

She did say, however, that she believes the best decision was made to send an officer to the church to look for the child, even though the church was out of the RBPD jurisdiction.

“After we received a call that a young child was missing, we had exhausted all other efforts to locate the child, and the church was the only other option where the child could be,” Jackson said.

“The church was a few miles out of our jurisdiction, but we made the decision to send an officer anyway because we were told the deputy for the sheriff’s office was on another call, and we needed to make sure the child was okay before we went further with the investigation.

“If the child hadn’t been there, we could have had a more serious situation to deal with.”

Jackson said Palmer is not currently under any disciplinary action at this time and he will remain on duty pending action from the city’s police committee.