On Wednesday morning, Palestine resident Lee Morris arrived home to find an Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputy, identified on a cell phone video as Deputy Colman, walking around his property.
When Morris asked why he was there, the deputy responded, as recorded on the video, “I just drove through an open gate.”
Morris, who has a legal case pending against the Sheriff’s Office, is under a gag-order. He was unable to speak with the Herald-Press. But his friend, Earl Cotton, provided the newspaper with a DVD copy of the video.
Cotton said the gate was locked – not open – when he and Morris left the property. He said he locked it again when he and Morris returned. So the deputy was, in effect, locked in on Morris' property.
“I believe its harassment, plain and simple, because of the case,” Cotton told the Herald-Press on Wednesday.
In the video, the deputy is seen and heard saying, “If you don't unlock the gate, I'm taking you to jail.”
The Anderson County Sheriff’s office was unavailable for comment. A Herald-Press reporter made several calls to the Sheriff's Office that went unreturned. He then went to the Sheriff's Office to get a response but was told by a dispatcher to make an appointment with Sheriff Greg Taylor.
District Attorney Allyson Mitchell told the Herald-Press that she could not comment on the matter, as it was an open investigation.
Also on the video, Morris could be heard phoning the Department of Public Safety to report the deputy for trespassing. DPS did not respond to the call.
“First of all, I didn’t know about it,” a DPS spokesman told the Herald-Press on Wednesday afternoon. “But, if a resident has an issue with a Sheriff’s Office deputy, they have to follow the proper channels and make a complaint. They don’t call us.”
In this case, the proper channels would mean that Morris would have to file a complaint with Sheriff Taylor, against whom he has already taken legal action.
“I think we’re being set up,” said Morris’ wife, Kimitria Hicks, who was with Cotton and Morris when they returned to the property. “He [the deputy] was just roaming around the property. He had no reason to be here.”
Another deputy, the video showed, eventually arrived at the property and used bolt-cutters to remove Morris’ lock from the gate.
“It was locked when we left,” Cotton said again. “I mean, why would anyone leave their gate unlocked, anyway?”
Although unable to speak to the Herald-Press, Morris could be heard on the video saying, “Well, I guess it’s time for me to leave Palestine.”
The video can be viewed by following this link: