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3 Tenn. cops fired for discussing killing colleagues

A recorded conversation proves that the 3 officers discussed killing their day shift employees, starting with the chief

By Lance Coleman
The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. — The discovery of a recorded conversation in which three Pigeon Forge police officers allegedly discussed killing their day shift colleagues all began after a young woman complained that one of the men was harassing her, authorities said Tuesday.

Pigeon Forge Police Chief Jack Baldwin fired Trinity R. Brown, Jefferson Thigpen and Michael L. Musgrove on Monday. Baldwin said Brown was hired in 1999, Thigpen in 2005 and Musgrove in 2009. None of the men could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Pigeon Forge officers Trinity R. Brown (left), Michael L. Musgrove (center) and Jefferson Thigpen (right). (Photo courtesy Pigeon Forge Police)
Pigeon Forge officers Trinity R. Brown (left), Michael L. Musgrove (center) and Jefferson Thigpen (right). (Photo courtesy Pigeon Forge Police)

During a news conference Tuesday, the chief said he presented the case to District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn and to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for investigation. According to Baldwin, federal authorities could not determine that a crime had been committed and decided charges would not be pursued.

Dunn could not be reached.

Baldwin said that on June 7 officers were dispatched to check on a possible overdose at Eagle's Nest Campground on Wears Valley Road.

A 19-year-old woman said that at 11:24 p.m., three officers responded to check on her boyfriend, got her cell phone number and left a short while later. At 12:21 a.m. the next morning, she started receiving text messages very suggestive in nature from an unidentified person.

The woman said she received 41 messages and reported to police the next day that she thought it was one of the officers who responded to the campground.

"We never were able to determine who was actually doing it," Baldwin said during the conference at Pigeon Forge City Hall. "We can't point a finger that any one of them did it."

According to Baldwin, the department's criminal investigation division determined there was no violation of law and referred the complaint to shift supervisor Lt. Gary Campbell.

Campbell then reviewed police cruiser recordings from the time frame of the incident to see if there was any evidence that the men were harassing the woman.

Baldwin said on June 17 Campbell discovered audio from about 2 a.m. June 8 in which Brown, Thigpen and Musgrove stood outside their cruisers in front of the Grand Hotel. Musgrove remarked that he had thought about going in and "kill all of day shift," according to a transcript provided by the Police Department.

Moments later, Brown asked Musgrove who he'd start with and Musgrove replied, "Chief!"

It appeared they had discussed the idea previously, the chief said.

"Each officer was asked individually whether he had discussed harming or killing another officer or officers, " Baldwin said. "All three said they had not."

The chief said at that point he suspended the officers without pay due to conduct unbecoming an officer.

"Suspending them and subsequently terminating their employment was warranted, both because of the recorded discussion they had about killing other officers and because they lied about it when confronted," Baldwin said.

According to Baldwin, Brown shot and killed a person during a traffic stop "several years ago" in what was ruled a justified homicide. According to police records, Brown had previously been reprimanded three times for absences, for losing some drug evidence and for missing a meeting with human resources.

According to Baldwin, Musgrove and Thigpen had "satisfactory" records.

Copyright 2013 the Knoxville News-Sentinel 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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