Mount Carmel mayor indicted in Sullivan County for impersonating an officer

Jeff Bobo • Jun 2, 2020 at 5:19 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — A day after being arraigned in Hawkins County for domestic assault, Mount Carmel Mayor Chris Jones was booked into the Sullivan County Jail Tuesday after being accused of using a police badge twice in an attempt to view video surveillance at the Stone Drive Walmart.

The incident adds to Jones’ list of legal problems including a recent arrest on a charge of domestic assault, a pending felony charge of theft over $250,000, and a 2019 civil court judgement against him in the amount of $571,000. He was also in the news last month after being found at a Kingsport motel with a slashed neck.

Sullivan County Assistant Attorney General Teresa Nelson confirmed for the Times News Tuesday that Jones, 49, Mount Carmel, was indicted by a Sullivan County grand jury on one count of felony criminal simulation and two counts of criminal impersonation.

The charges were investigated by Kingsport Police Department Detective Kevin Ewing, who was a colleague of Jones when they were members of the Mount Carmel Police Department.

Jones, however, was fired from the MCPD in 2013.

According to a report filed by Ewing, on Jan. 31 Jones went to the Stone Drive Walmart’s customer service department, where he allegedly displayed a police badge, stated he was investigating a stolen vehicle, and said he needed to see video surveillance from the store parking lot.

That Walmart employee later told Ewing that Jones told her he could come back “in uniform” if he needed to.

“No one was available from loss prevention and Jones didn’t see the video on Jan. 31,” Ewing stated in his report. “Jones returned on Feb. 1 and spoke to store manager Stacey Gentry, and again showed a badge while asking to see video.”

Jones allegedly told Gentry he was “with Mount Carmel and sent here by the police chief to investigate a stolen van.”

“Gentry stated he became suspicious of Jones and didn’t show him any video,” Ewing stated in his report.

Ewing viewed video surveillance of Jones on both occasions when he allegedly asked to see parking lot surveillance video.

Ewing said one video clearly shows Jones display a badge, while in the other video Jones has his back to the camera and is seen taking out his wallet and showing it to Gentry.

Ewing said he also interviewed MCPD Chief Ken Lunsford Jr., who stated Jones is not affiliated with the department and has no authority to represent the department.

Lunsford also noted that on Jan. 2 a report of a van being stolen from Jones’ driveway was filed with the MCPD, but the van didn’t belong to Jones.

Jones was booked into the Sullivan County Jail shortly before 7 a.m. Tuesday and released after making bond at 11 a.m. There is no court date scheduled as of yet for the Sullivan County charges.

On Monday, Jones was arraigned in Hawkins County Sessions Court one one count of domestic assault stemming from an incident at his residence on Hemlock Street last Thursday evening involving his live-in girlfriend, Amber Page Hale.

He is accused of pushing her down during an argument over a TV being removed from his room, causing an abrasion to her elbow.

After spending the weekend in the Hawkins County Jail, Jones was released on his own recognizance Monday and ordered by Judge Todd Ross to have no contact with Hale. He is scheduled to appear in Sessions Court June 29 on that charge.

At the time of his arrest last Thursday, Jones was free on a $100,000 bond stemming from his indictment on Feb. 2 by a Hawkins County grand jury for theft over $250,000, stemming from allegations that Jones embezzled more than $394,000 from his elderly grandmother in West Virginia in the year before she passed away in 2016.

His trial date on the theft charge is currently set for July 29 in Hawkins County Criminal Court.

In March of 2019, Third Judicial District Chancellor Doug Jenkins ruled that a $571,000 civil court judgment from West Virginia against Jones related to the alleged theft is valid in Tennessee and can be collected by the plaintiffs: Jones’ mother and two uncles.

Jones was elected mayor in 2016 and served the previous two years as an alderman. Jones was also a longtime Mount Carmel police officer, detective and fire chief until 2013, when he was fired by former Mayor Larry Frost amid allegations he had stolen pills that were in a jacket that was turned over to the police department after being found at the City Park.

No criminal charges resulted from that allegation.

Times News reporter Matthew Lane contributed to this report.

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