By Angie A. Gambill
An investigation by Special Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Drug Investigation Division, with the assistance of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, resulted in the indictment of two Mountain City police officers on a variety of drug-related charges last week.
In August, at the request of First District Attorney General Tony Clark, TBI Special Agents began investigating allegations that Mountain City Police Lieutenant Ronald Glen Shupe, 44, and Sergeant Elmer Kenneth Lane, 61, were involved in the use and distribution of illegal narcotics. According to a press release from TBI, during the course of the investigation, agents learned that Shupe and Lane were involved in obtaining, distributing, and using controlled substances both on and off duty. Further investigation revealed that some of the transactions occurred within a school zone. On Monday, November 6th, says TBI, during an undercover operation conducted by the TBI, FBI, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Shupe was found to be in possession of a quantity of Oxycodone pills while on duty. He was arrested and taken into federal custody.
Shupe waived a federal detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Greeneville during his initial court appearance last Tuesday on the charges.
Yesterday, November 14, Shupe agreed to conditions of a plea bargain on the federal drug charges in his preliminary hearing. The details of the agreement are not yet available.
A complaint filed on November 7 in Greeneville by FBI Special Agent John Anderson detailed the allegations against Shupe, which included numerous accusations that he provided oxycodone and meth to a confidential informant while on duty and allowed her to shoot up the drugs in his patrol vehicle. Shupe was also accused in the complaint of using narcotics while on duty.
The two-count criminal complaint charged Shupe with possession with the intent to distribute oxycodone and possession of a firearm that had been shipped and transported by interstate commerce. Those charges stem from an undercover operation where a second informant made plans to meet Shupe for an exchange of drugs.
Court records show text and Facebook messages between the two about the transaction. According to the records, Shupe was under surveillance when he met with the informant who was wearing a wire. He was arrested after paying for and taking possession of the oxycodone pills. As soon as he left the meeting with the informant, Shupe was surrounded by agents from the FBI, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
“He was arrested in possession of the pills (Schedule II controlled substances). He was in full uniform, driving a Mountain City police car, and armed with a department issued Glock pistol and ammunition,” the complaint states.
According to the filing, Johnson County sheriff’s investigators met with the first informant at the Ashe County, NC jail in June where she was incarcerated on drug charges. After waiving her Miranda rights, the woman told officers she had received methamphetamine from Shupe on several occasions while he was on duty.
The woman told investigators that she and Shupe communicated through Facebook Messenger. In August, TBI agents obtained a search warrant to get access to the woman’s Messenger account and found multiple conversations she had had with an account registered to Shupe.
In one exchange, Shupe reportedly asked the woman “the best way to do them Roxie Pills. Can they be shot.”
The woman told Shupe she’d never done that, but wanted to because she needed “some go go.” Shupe responded “me too” and that he worked the next morning and would try to find them some.
From other conversations between Shupe and the woman, investigators allege that Shupe was watching for warrants on the woman so he could warn her when law enforcement was looking for her.
In another conversation, Shupe’s text message to the woman said, “Hey baby girl. Just when ever u get to n town let me know and I’ll meet u behind foodlion. I’m still waiting on my candy to arrive and I’ll bring you some. I looked for a new thing but we don’t have any.”
Shupe went on to say that he’d bought a “G” which was described in the court filing as a gram of methamphetamine.
The report stated that the informant “reported she has given Shupe an intravenous injection of methamphetamine on two occasions while Shupe was in his patrol car and on duty. (She) advised she injected Shupe with the methamphetamine into a vein on his hand while they were sitting in his patrol car. (She) reported Shupe would refer to methamphetamine as go-go or an energy booster when they were discussing methamphetamine.”
On Thursday, the Johnson County Grand Jury returned indictments charging Shupe with one count of Possession of Schedule II Drugs with Intent to Deliver in a School Zone, one count of Conspiracy to Possess Schedule II Drugs with Intent to Deliver in a School Zone, one count of Possession of a Firearm during the Commission of a Dangerous Felony, three counts of Official Misconduct, one count of Solicitation to Commit Assault, one count of Accessory After the Fact, one count of Release of Confidential Information, one count of Simple Possession of Schedule II Drugs, one count of Casual Exchange of Schedule VI Drugs, and Theft of Property Valued at $1,000 or Less. He was served on the new charges in the Washington County Jail where he was already being held on the federal charges.
According to the presentment filed Thursday in Johnson County, the transactions involving a school zone were near Johnson County High School.
One official misconduct charge against Shupe stemmed from him allegedly soliciting a man to beat someone up and to do it in the city where “I (Shupe) will take care of it” so the unidentified person “will learn the hard way.”
The Grand Jury also returned indictments Thursday charging Sgt. Kenneth Lane with conspiracy to possess schedule II drugs (oxycodone) with intent to deliver in a school zone; solicitation to commit delivery of schedule II drugs (oxycodone); simple possession of schedule II drugs (methamphetamine). Lane was arrested Thursday afternoon and booked into the Johnson County Jail on a $25,000 bond.
The charges against Lane apparently stemmed from information authorities obtained while investigating Shupe, according to federal court records. Text messages obtained by officers between an account registered to Shupe and an informant led them to believe Shupe was buying narcotics for Lane as well as himself. Federal court documents detail much of the drug activity Shupe allegedly participated in, and Lane was implicated in those records. At press time, there was no record that he had been charged in the federal case.
In a Monday afternoon phone call, Mountain City Police Chief Denver Church expressed his concern that the community no longer has trust in the police department.
“We lost the trust of the public,” he stated. “They had faith in their officers and in the police department. That was violated. It’s something we’ll have to work on to gain their trust back. Trust isn’t given. It’s earned.”
According to Johnson County Sheriff Mike Reece, the sheriff’s department’s involvement was limited to the initial investigation in August that eventually led to the recent arrests of the two Mountain City police officers.
“We received some information, and then referred it to Tony Clark,” said Reece. “We assisted in any way we could.”
Referring to the shortage of town police officers, Sheriff Reece said that although their own department is down seven officers at present, the sheriff’s office has been helping the city police department deal with the situation. According to him, Lane was already on medical leave when the arrest occurred and the county had supplied an officer to cover his position. That officer is still in place. A fully staffed Mountain City Police Department consists of eight officers while the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department should have 14 deputies on staff.
Mountain City Board of Mayor and Aldermen met Tuesday evening in regular session after press time. Decisions are expected to be made concerning the hiring of officers to bring the force back to capacity.
Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons declined to give a statement on the case at this time.
Lane posted bond the same day he was arrested. At press time, Shupe remained in the Washington County Jail.
The Tomahawk will keep our readers abreast of developments in the case via our website at www.thetomahawk.com.
Editor’s note: The Tomahawk would like to express appreciation to Becky Campbell, senior reporter with the Johnson City Press, as well as Sam Watson, content director, for assistance in obtaining information for this article, as well as credit Campbell with numerous excerpts appearing here.