Five Receive April Officer of the Month Award, One Named Civilian Employee of the Month

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
kfarley@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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News item

Five Receive April Officer of the Month Award, One Named Civilian Employee of the Month

Posted: 07/30/2020
The Knoxville Police Department Commendations and Awards Committee has selected five to receive the April Officer of the Month Award and one to receive the April Civilian Employee of the Month Award, it was announced on Thursday.

Due to the continuing Covid-19 pandemic, the KPD chose not to host a public event to announce these award winners, instead opting for a private recognition of those selected to receive these awards.

Officer Adam Broome

Officer Adam Broome was selected as one of the April Officer of the Month recipients for his relentless efforts that ultimately led to the arrest of a violent suspect on a crime spree.

In late February, officers responded to a report of shots fired in front of a residence in the 1300 block of New York Avenue. Witnesses stated that the suspect was shooting at a pink Volkswagen Bug that had juveniles nearby before fleeing the scene. Officers recovered several spent shell casings following the incident. The next day, Officer Broome responded to that location and located several additional spent shell casings along with a live round. After returning to KPD Headquarters and reviewing previous correspondence with patrol supervisors, 20-year-old Todd Wilkerson was identified as a possible suspect.

On March 5 at around 3:49 a.m., officers responded to a residence in the 1310 block of New York Avenue for the report of a carjacking. The suspect, who matched the description of Wilkerson, allegedly fired several rounds over the hood of the vehicle at somebody while committing the carjacking.

Officer Broome passed along the information regarding the carjacking and shooting to patrol officers, who located the vehicle that was taken in the carjacking at around 7:30 p.m. on March 5. They attempted to stop the vehicle, which fled the area until it was located abandoned at the dead end of Connecticut Avenue. A pistol was found in the vehicle as was a quantity of marijuana. A subsequent K-9 track located one of the vehicle occupants a short distance from the vehicle.

In subsequent investigation, Officer Broome learned that Todd Wilkerson was in fact the driver of the stolen vehicle taken in the carjacking, while the gun found in the vehicle also belonged to Wilkerson. Following continued investigation, investigators were provided with enough detail to place warrants on Wilkerson for carjacking, felony fleeing and possession of a handgun in the commission of a dangerous felony. The investigation also revealed that Wilkerson was involved in the shooting that occurred in late February on New York Avenue.

With the warrants on file, Officer Broome then spent countless hours canvassing neighborhoods and speaking to witnesses in an attempt to locate Wilkerson. That work finally paid off when Officer Broome uncovered a series of leads that eventually led to a residence in the 300 block of E. Scott. After the Violence Reduction Team conducted extended surveillance on the house, Wilkerson was taken into custody while exiting the residence. Officers had been searching for Wilkerson for over three weeks prior to his apprehension and arrest.

Officers Terry Crowe and Francisco Vargas

Officers Terry Crowe and Francisco Vargas were selected as April Officer of the Month recipients for utilizing great situational awareness, conducting a thorough investigation and going the extra mile after responding to a disturbance at a motel.

On April 1 at around 1:45 a.m., Officers Crowe and Vargas were dispatched to a disturbance at the Super 8 located at 341 Merchant Drive. Upon arrival at the motel, the officers noticed three motorcycles in the parking lot that matched those that had been recovered the previous morning after a theft from the nearby Yamaha Suzuki of Knoxville. Based on that, Officers Crowe and Vargas decided to investigate the situation further.

That follow-up investigation revealed that two of the motorcycles did not have a registration plate, while the third had a tag that did not belong to the vehicle. Mud was also caked on the bikes, much like the bikes that were recovered the previous morning. The officers also entered the VIN numbers for the motorcycles, which pulled up the Yamaha of Knoxville website. After that, the officers spoke with the motel’s front desk clerk and learned where the subjects operating the motorcycles were staying.

With additional support from nearby officers, officers proceeded to the two rooms where the subjects were believed to be staying. In one room, officers located three suspects, two motorcycle helmets and the keys to two separate motorcycles. In the second room, officers located a fourth suspect and Yamaha motorcycle keys in plain view.

30-year-old Lance Ferguson, 21-year-old Isiah Carvin and 24-year-old Ernest McDonald were each arrested for Theft of Property after the key holder responded to the scene and verified that the motorcycles were missing from Yamaha of Knoxville.  If not for the efforts of Officers Crowe and Vargas, those three bikes might have not otherwise been recovered and three suspects would have been free to potentially commit additional crime in the area.

Officers Luke Johnson and Malachi Soldner

Officers Luke Johnson and Malachi Soldner were the final April Officer of the Month selections, receiving the commendation for their work in identifying and arresting a serial thief as well as their additional follow-up work that uncovered a bicycle “chop shop” operating in the downtown area.

Over the previous months, the short west area of Forest Heights, Sutherland Avenue and Sequoyah Hills began experiencing an increase in property crimes, specifically the theft of lawn equipment and bicycles from residences, driveways and garages. On April 7, Investigator Mel Pierce with the Property Crimes Unit issued a bulletin for a suspect from a bicycle theft that had occurred in the Forest Heights neighborhood. Later that same day, a citizen called concerning a suspicious person that had been seen riding a bike in the Sequoyah Hills area.

Remembering that bulletin, Officers Johnson and Soldner quickly responded to the area and located a male suspect identified as Larry Bradley riding a bike. Though not riding the bike from the earlier bulletin, Bradley was found to have an active warrant from the UTPD for stealing another bike the previous month and was arrested. Officers Johnson and Soldner forwarded the information to Investigator Pierce, who the following day connected the bike that Bradley was found riding to a residential burglary in Sequoyah Hills. Before those charges could be added, Bradley was released from jail. However, Officer Soldner canvassed the area, quickly located Bradley in the Sutherland Avenue area and took him back into custody.

Officers Johnson and Soldner then conducted additional follow-up work, locating a victim from another burglary in the Sequoyah Hills area from December 2019 in which Bradley had been found in possession of the victim’s property. At the time, the victim chose not to prosecute, but she agreed to cooperate in the case after officers followed up with her.

During the follow-up on these cases, Officer Soldner received information about a location in the Old City area in which numerous bikes were believed to be stashed and were possibly being disassembled or parted out. Officer Soldner searched the area and located a camp with dozens of bikes in it, photographed the area and relayed the information to Property Crimes Unit investigators. The next day, investigators went to the location and confiscated numerous bikes believed to be stolen. The unit indicated that the location did appear to be a bike “chop shop”. 

Audio/Video Technician Eric Miller

Audio/Video Technician Eric Miller was chosen as the April Civilian Employee of the Month for his initiative to complete several large-scale projects, specifically to assist the department during the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the pandemic made its way to Knoxville, the training unit was forced to postpone or cancel in-person training, putting a strain on the unit to complete essential yearly in-service training. Eric stepped up and took on the responsibility of producing and editing in-service videos for the training unit, providing required classes for officers to receive in-service training remotely and maintain their POST certification.

As part of that, Eric coordinated with each instructor to compile the material, plan out the course and then record them teaching their class. He then edited it all together into a video format that could be easily disseminated to the officers. Several classes included elements that Eric videoed and edited that officers would not normally see during the classroom in-service training.

In addition to that, Eric also worked to safeguard essential video evidence in preparation of potentially transitioning to a new video management system. That required a considerable amount of time and research, as Eric developed a process to log and file each video for safekeeping and easy tracking.

It is for those reasons, in addition to numerous efforts to assist officers and investigators behind the scenes, that Eric was selected to receive the April Civilian Employee of the Month Award.