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Neighbors defend teacher arrested for holding teens at gunpoint

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Story by Callie Starnes

Eyewitness News Reporter/Weekend Anchor

HAMILTON COUNTY (WRCB)-- A Hamilton County teacher is behind bars for holding a group of teenagers at gunpoint and now his neighbors are coming to his defense.

Stacy Swallows is being held at the Hamilton County Jail.

Swallows' family and parents of the teenagers he's accused of holding at gunpoint both tell very different stories, but have chosen to keep their faces out of the media for now.

Where Julie Walker's driveway ends, the Shipley Cemetery begins.

It's rumored to be haunted, but Walker says it's unwanted visitors to the cemetery late at night that spook residents.

"They have no business in the cemetery," says Julie Walker.

That is the general consensus among neighbors we talked to after 45-year-old Stacy Swallows was arrested for confronting a group of teens in the cemetery Saturday night.

"He was holding the kids at gunpoint until police arrived," says Janice Atkinson, spokesperson for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

Atkinson says Swallows, who is a teacher at Sequoyah High School, called 911 when he heard gun shots coming from the cemetery.

He blocked the road with his truck and pointed an AR-15 assault rifle at nine teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19.

When deputies arrived they took Swallows into custody.

"Nine, ten against one. You are going to hold them until the cops get there. He didn't know what was going on. All he knew was he heard gun shots and his family was right there," says Walker.

Authorities say they didn't find a gun on the teenagers.

The teens told deputies they read about the cemetery online and were hunting for ghosts, but Walker doesn't buy the story.

She fears Swallows will lose his teaching job because of an altercation that she says is being blown out of proportion.

"He was looking out for his family and looking out for us," says Walker.

Swallows is being held on a $180,000 bond.

The Hamilton County Department of Education released a statement Monday saying it will investigate the incident to determine if Swallows will keep his position at Sequoyah High.

The school system has instructed him to report directly to Central Office when he is released and able to return to work.

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