JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A Johnson City man is facing several charges after police say he threatened to bring a gun onto a private school campus.
Jeremy Jeffers is charged with aggravated criminal trespassing, simple assault, and communicating a threat to a school employee.
It all happened Friday morning at Providence Academy.
An affidavit of complaint says Johnson City police were dispatched because of “a suspicious person acting erratic and screaming at the school.”
Jeffers had been living across the street from the school and this isn’t the first he’s been asked to leave the property,” according to the head of school, Ben Holland.
“There have just been times where he’s walked onto campus and we’ve been like ‘Hey, don’t be on campus.’ and he’s left…no major incidents before but we’ve made it clear, we don’t want you on campus,” Holland recalled. “We had actually just had a drill a few weeks ago practicing what would happen during that type of scenario and put that in place and test all those things.”
When approached, Jeffers started “yelling, cursing, and making racial statements toward [the school’s security guard]” according to the affidavit.
“If you’re going to have a situation like that, it’s your best case scenario to have in response, having armed personnel to protect the children and keep them safe and then having the response from our local law enforcement to be able to apprehend and now let the justice system do its work,” Holland said.
When asked to leave, Jeffers said to the school security guard “I have guns too. I will be back and you’ll be sorry,” according to the affidavit.
“They searched this gentleman’s home. He had no weapons. He didn’t have weapons on him then,” Holland told News Channel 11. “There weren’t weapons in the home but you want to be prepared for any type of scenario that may come up.”
The school does not have a school resource officer.
“Our local law enforcement does everything that they can with the resources that they have to keep all of our citizens safe,” said Holland. “As a private institution, we feel the responsibility to provide the best security that we can for our children.”
Providence Academy has private security through the Harrell Group.
“I’ve got guys right now in two continents and three or four different places in the states,” said Harrell Group owner and Chief Operating Officer Mike Lewis. “Providence Academy was the last call I thought I would get. It can happen anywhere. It really can. You can have anything take place at any school on any given day.”
Their headquarters isn’t far from the school in Jonesborough. Lewis said additional guards were at the school within 25 seconds of the call for help.
“Your best answer to school security is law enforcement. That is the best…there needs to be more law enforcement in these schools but who is going to pay for them and how are they going to get there?” said Lewis. “Since that can’t happen in some of these private schools, their next option is to get somebody there for immediate response to a situation.”
The security guard at the school called 911 when the threat was made and it is a mutual effort with law enforcement to handle situations like the one on Friday.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s Harrell group security or some other security company, or whatever jurisdiction, Washington County, Johnson City, or even [Tennessee Highway Patrol],” Lewis said. “Nobody wants to see anything happen to children. Nobody wants to see a problem in a school so everybody is going to react pretty urgently.”
The group has a program called the School Protective Security Program.
“We’re more or less contracted by the school. We are a state-certified protective security officer. We don’t have the arrest powers or the arrest jurisdiction or anything like that. We’re just here to protect the property and the people that’s on the property,” Lewis said.
Lewis says the requirements, including the 60-hour course, mirror those of an SRO.
“This should be an example. Providence Academy deserves a lot of kudos and a lot of credit for being proactive…maybe having the foresight to see that maybe an event could happen to them and hopefully, other schools will realize that,” said Lewis. “Just because you’re wherever and nothing’s happened in a hundred years, don’t assume it won’t take place in the next 24 hours.”
Police found Jeffers at his home and told him to stay off school property. The affidavit says he became “irate and uncooperative with officers” eventually acknowledging he wasn’t allowed back and that he knew the consequences if it happened again.
News Channel 11 reached out to Johnson City police requesting an arrest report and interview.
A spokesperson for the department said, “This is a pending case and we will not be releasing any information until the investigation is complete. He was arrested and charged with Simple Assault and Aggravated Criminal Trespassing.”
The incident happened around 10 a.m. Friday and a spokesperson for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said Jeffers was booked into the jail that afternoon.