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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

School threats case goes to grand jury

Friday, January 18, 2013

Tyrone Watts, at left, confers with defense attorney Robert Marlow before a preliminary hearing Thursday over alleged threats he made at a Bedford County school last month. Watts was bound over to the February session of the grand jury.
(T-G Photo by Brian Mosely)
Alleged threats made at Thomas Magnet School last month were serious enough for a Tullahoma man to be bound over to the Bedford County grand jury.

Meanwhile, a judge said that Tennessee needs a law that "falls more squarely" with the alleged crime that was committed.

Tyrone L. Watts, 43, of Tullahoma, will appear on Feb. 25 for arraignment on the charge of filing a false report. He is currently free on $10,000 bond.

Two threats

According to testimony from board of education employee Kim Joyce, Watts had threatened to return to the school with an AK-47 and kill everyone and himself after an incident on Dec. 12 where Watts and his wife, the mother of his stepson, was refused permission to check the child out early.

Joyce explained to assistant district attorney Ross Boudreaux that she had attempted to contact the child's biological father for permission to check the student out, but since a letter of permission had not been supplied, they could not release the child.

Watts' wife kept asking, "Why do I have to go through this," Joyce testified, and that Watts himself told the child that "this is what stress will do to you."

Alleged threat

Then Watts allegedly told the child that "I will go and get an AK-47 and come up in here and shoot everybody and then kill myself." Joyce said she went to get the school principal, Mindi DeWitt, after he said that.

"That's not something you say," Joyce said. "It made me nervous."

Watts was told that due to the school policy, they could not release the child and he allegedly said that it was okay, because he was going to return and kill everybody anyway. Shelbyville police were called as Watts and his wife left.


Defense attorney Robert Marlow asked Joyce if the statement was made to her or the child, and asked if she thought she was in danger, which she replied that she would "have been alarmed regardless ... I was frightened."

Shelbyville police Sgt. James Wilkerson testified to his role in the incident, saying he was "very alarmed" about the alleged threats and took out a warrant for Watts' arrest immediately after filing the report.

Wilkerson said that following the incident, Shelbyville police began doing walkthroughs of the school.

Marlow asked if this was a response to what Watts allegedly said, or the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut two days later. The sergeant said that it was the result of the local incident, but that Sandy Hook "put more bite into the policy," adding it upset the school staff.

Change law?

Boudreaux said that Watts made the threat twice and that it was more than enough cause to file the charges, but Marlow argued that the law concerning false reports did not apply in this case and wanted the charge dismissed.

Judge Charles Rich said he noted that the law needed to "fall more squarely" with the alleged crime, adding that he was going to speak to members of the state legislature to change the law to reflect the crime.

But despite this statement, Rich found that the state had made its case and bound Watts over the next session of the grand jury.