Old law could save teacher - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Old law could save teacher

Story by Antwan Harris

Eyewitness News Reporter

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- Stacy Swallows was arrested Saturday, and sat in jail until Wednesday, when Judge Bob Moon greatly reduced his $180,000 bond.

Swallows told police he heard gunshots coming from a cemetery near his property.

He found nine teens hanging out, and held them at gunpoint until police arrived.

Neighbors say Swallows has been asked to keep an eye on the cemetery, where they say there's been a lot of mischief.

Judge Moon questioned the merits of the case.

The "citizen's arrest" law has been in effect since the 1800s.

It clearly states a citizen can make an arrest if a felony is being committed.

Attorney Jerry Tidwell says this information could be a game changer for Swallows' defense.

"It did strike me as unusual," says Tidwell.

Attorney Jerry Tidwell says he not too sure if Stacy Swallows should have spent a day in jail.

He was arrested Saturday for holding a group of teenagers at gunpoint at the Shipley Cemetery in Sale Creek.

Tidwell believes Swallows was performing one of the oldest laws on record, a "citizen's arrest".

"Either they have to see it committed or believe they have reasonable cause that it happened," says Tidwell.

Residents have complained about the cemetery being vandalized and Swallows told a judge he was asked to watch over it.

Tidwell says the group of kids playing ghost hunters, could have been the ones charged.

Tennessee law considers it a felony to play games or loiter in any cemetery.

"He is saying, ok, I'm holding these people for the police because I'm thinking they committed a crime. But when the police get there, they arrest me when in fact, they could have been charged," says Tidwell.

Tidwell says the arresting officer saw the gun and may have immediately thought this was assault.

In fact, Swallows' defense can argue under state law the rifle was necessary to make the arrest.

"It's clear that they can make an arrest and they can use a certain amount of force if necessary to make that arrest," says Tidwell.

That means you can kick in a door or window to get someone if necessary, but Tidwell says always use caution.

"There can be circumstances that provoke you to do it because you are afraid something bad is going to happen to someone or you are going to get injured or people are going to escape. But be very careful when putting yourself out there to make a citizen's arrest," says Tidwell.

Swallows has since bailed out of jail and is due back in court in November.

The judge says he can't own a gun at this time and has ordered Swallows not to have contact with the teens involved.

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