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Six Knoxville Police Department Officers Receive March Commendations  
Six Knoxville Police Department officers have been selected to receive March commendations by the Department’s Commendations and Awards Committee, it was announced today. 

Due to the continuing Covid-19 pandemic, the KPD chose not to host a public ceremony to present these commendations, instead opting for a private recognition of those selected to receive awards. 

Officers Greg Womac and Sharon Terrell

Officers Greg Womac and Sharon Terrell were selected to receive the March Officer of the Month Award for their actions that were instrumental in assisting the Knoxville Fire Department during a residential fire. 

On the morning of March 14, officers responded with KFD and AMR to a house fire in the 4200 block of Valencia Road in the Sequoya Hills area. Once units arrived on scene, the house was approximately 50 percent engulfed and it was reported that two individuals were potentially still inside the residence. 

Due to multiple issues and factors, including the narrowness of Valencia Road and the steepness of the driveway of the residence, it was difficult for KFD to get the necessary equipment to the scene. 

While continuing to handle the police functions that were required at the scene, including traffic and crowd control, officers played a huge role in assisting the KFD rescue efforts in the face of those factors. That included running the block to the ambulances located at Alta Vista Way and returning with the equipment needed by firefighters and EMS personnel. Officers also assisted in carrying out both victims that were discovered inside the residence. Additionally, officers on scene helped to reroute the ambulances to another access point and stayed to help run water and other supplies to the KFD crews battling the fire. 

Although multiple officers assisted at the scene, the actions of Officers Womac and Terrell were highlighted specifically as the first two KPD units on the scene. It was noted that they both played a crucial role in extracting the two victims and assisting in getting the fire under control by both KPD and KFD supervisors. 

Sergeant Sam Henard

Sergeant Sam Henard was recognized with the March Officer of the Month Award for his proactive work that resulted in the quick apprehension of two serial offenders in Knoxville and the preservation and discovery of valuable evidence. 

The first came on March 7, when Sgt. Henard located Robert Whipple after the 47-year-old had committed three separate bank robberies in West Knoxville on three successive days. On March 5, Whipple struck the Home Federal Bank located at 1700 Downtown West. On March 6, he hit the First Horizon Bank at 1815 Downtown West. Finally, on March 7, Whipple hit the Fifth Third Bank on East Walker Springs Lane. 

Investigation jointly conducted by the KPD Violent Crimes Unit and the Federal Bureau of Investigation led to the discovery of a possible suspect, who was believed to be driving a two-door yellow Dodge Challenger. After that information was broadcast to patrol units, Sgt. Henard began a search for the vehicle. At around 5:50 p.m. on March 7, Henard located the suspect’s vehicle in the parking lot of the Red Roof Inn at 1315 Kirby Road. 

Sgt. Henard conducted surveillance until investigators and FBI units responded to the scene and eventually took Whipple into custody. 

In addition to that, just one week later, Sgt. Henard was responsible for the arrest of another serial offender. On March 13, officers responded to a call at the Walgreens at 4423 Western Avenue, where a subject had attempted to steal a cash register by cutting the metal cable securing it. When confronted, the subject jumped in a vehicle and fled the scene. 

It was quickly determined that the suspect vehicle was registered to an apartment in Big Oaks Apartments, where Sgt. Henard immediately responded. He quickly located the suspect vehicle, which was occupied, and initiated a traffic stop with assistance from additional officers. 

The driver, identified as Jason Eastridge, matched the description of the suspect and was positively identified in a show-up by a Walgreens employee. He was also identified as the same suspect who had successfully stolen a register weeks prior at that same store. In the course of the investigation, it was also discovered that in addition to these two thefts, Eastridge had committed the same crime at other Walgreens throughout the city. 

He was charged with multiple counts of thefts and burglary for the offenses.

Sergeant Rodney Patton, Officers Jason Booker, Chas Terry and Andrew Markham

Violent Crimes Unit Sergeant Rodney Patton and Investigators Jason Booker, Chas Terry and Andrew Markham were selected as March Officer of the Month Award recipients for their unerring dedication and tireless efforts to catch a serial bank robber as well as the perpetrator of a heinous triple murder within a four-day span. 

From March 5-7, those officers all responded to three separate bank robberies that occurred in West Knoxville across three successive days. The efforts of Patton, Booker, Terry and Markham alongside the Federal Bureau of Investigation ultimately led to the identification and arrest of 47-year-old Robert Whipple for the crimes. 

While those efforts alone would have been enough to merit Office of the Month consideration, Sergeant Patton and Investigators Booker, Terry and Markham were again called into action on the morning of March 8. At approximately 4:44 a.m. that morning, Investigator Terry responded to the intersection of Division Street and Liberty, where a female victim was found deceased in the roadway from a gunshot. Following up on that, Investigator Booker responded to the victim’s residence on Trousdale Road, where two more female victims were found deceased, launching an unfathomable triple murder investigation. 

It was at this time that Sgt. Patton arrived at the scene to assist in the investigation. Throughout the roughly 14 hours that were spent in the intense early stages of the investigation, Sgt. Patton filtered information between units, responded to most of the scenes to provide support for the unit and worked side-by-side with the involved parties. 

As the investigation proceeded, Investigator Markham was called to the Public Safety Building to start processing information gathered during the initial stages of the investigation. As information continued to be collected, Investigators Booker, Terry and Markham worked to together to disseminate the most important information to the appropriate units and agencies in a unified effort bring this heinous act to a resolution. That free flow of information in all likelihood contributed to the quick identification of the suspect. 

Due to the collective and determined efforts of Investigators Booker, Terry and Markham alongside Sgt. Patton, less than 12 hours after officers responded to the initial call, Desmon Rhea was identified, arrested and charged with the three murders. 
Posted by serland On 29 July, 2020 at 2:55 PM  

 
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