ERWIN, Tenn. (WJHL) — Three bondsmen have been charged with vandalism, aggravated burglary and assault after breaking into an Erwin home and assaulting a fifteen-year-old girl who lived there, according to police.
The girl’s father, David Cannon, told News Channel 11 his daughter was shaken by the incident.
“I can’t wrap my head around the situation,” Cannon said. “I can’t understand how anybody – and I am assuming these guys have families – why you wouldn’t put yourself in the position to say, ‘That’s someone else’s child, I need to treat this one a little better.’”
According to a police report from the Erwin Police Department, Daniel James Buchanan, James Harvey Davis, and Douglas Frank, Jr. were working as bondsmen to find Shelby Breedlove, who had supposedly skipped bail. A home on Gay Street in Erwin was reportedly Breedlove’s last known address.
The report says officers were sent to the 300 block of Gay Street for a home invasion just before 9 a.m. Friday, August 6.
Before entering the home, Buchanan spoke with a neighbor, identified as a witness on the report, across the street. The neighbor told him that the people he was looking for didn’t live there anymore. The report says Buchanan also asked about a woman and was told by the neighbor that she had not lived there in about a year.
After the conversation, Buchanan went back to the home. The report states that around this time, Davis and Frank, Jr. started knocking on the doors and sides of the house to contact the people inside. After no response, Buchanan reportedly told Davis and Frank, Jr. to kick the door in.
The only person inside was a 15-year-old girl who was asleep in her bed and had been woken up by the noise.
According to the report, she got up and attempted to go downstairs. She was confronted by Davis and Frank, Jr., who were both armed at the bottom of the steps.
She says she was ordered to come down the stairs where she was pinned up against the wall and searched. Afterward, the men released her and allowed her to go outside and call her parents.
“One of the gentlemen was standing at the bottom of the stairs with a gun pointed at her,” Cannon said. “And so she had walked down about three stairs, four steps and he stopped or she stopped and he asked her her name, and she gave her name, and then he said ‘how old are you?’ and she told him she was 15. So he ordered her down the steps and told her to put her hands on her head, forced her physically against the wall face first. And then the older gentleman that was there, I guess it was the one that searched her open handedly (she) said.”
Cannon said his daughter told the bondsmen she needed her phone to call him, so they told her to go back to her room to get her phone.
The report says there was damage to the front door and its frame, as well as the back screen door.
“They came into the house had her under gunpoint, and I had went through the house and still again, it took a little while to actually get to the point where I realized how much damage there actually was to the house,” Cannon said.
A wood panel was also pulled off inside the closet of another bedroom. Davis and Frank, Jr. also went inside other rooms of the home, but there was no damage reported.
When police arrived, they saw a man with a gun, identified as Buchanan, standing on the front porch and the 15-year-old resident crying outside the home.
Buchanan complied with the officer’s commands and was arrested. He told officers that he was a bondsman and that there were two more people, later identified as Davis and Frank, Jr., inside the home. Cannon told News Channel 11 his daughter was confused during the encounter because the men had not identified themselves prior to that.
“She isn’t very open about it. She was just scared, she said that she didn’t really know how to react,” Cannon said. “They were wearing badges around their neck, so she was thinking they were legitimate. They never told her what they were, why they were here, so she had no idea.”
As another officer prepared to go inside, he saw one of the other men coming down the stairs with a gun. He was given commands and also complied. Officers also made contact with the other subject.
“There was almost a short standoff in the stairway with one of the gentleman, the gentleman that was upstairs in my daughters room,” Cannon said. “Because he came out with a pistol in his hand while the policeman is at the bottom of the steps, and so it apparently came real close to a bad situation at that point.”
Tenessee state law says bounty hunters are to notify law enforcement before taking anyone into custody and that no contact was made by Buchanan, Davis, or Frank, Jr., according to the report.
The report also notes that Buchanan had received information before entering the home that the people they were looking for, including the one they had a warrant on, no longer lived there.
Cannon said the incident has left a lasting effect on his daughter.
“She is very on edge,” Cannon said. “We have to be very cautious how we wake her up because she wakes up very – almost terrorized, almost even just waking up. She’s broken down several times just coming down the stairs. I imagine it’s just playing out in her head again. You can see a change in her when she goes out the door, outside the house, you can definitely see a change in her, but when she comes back in, it’s different.”
Cannon showed News Channel 11 security footage of the men, but he says the surveillance does not make his family feel any safer following the incident.
“I really think even locks on the door is such a false sense of security when it comes to certain things, even a camera. With them realizing there was even a camera on the porch, they continued,” Cannon said. “It’s absolutely destroyed the safety feeling in our home. It’s almost took the life out of the house.”
Cannon said he is considering moving as a result of the incident, so his daughter will feel safe.
“If she’s not feeling safe in the house, I don’t see a choice (but to move),” Cannon said. “When it comes to my kids feeling safe and secure and happy, it’s definitely going to override where we live.”
Buchanan and Frank, Jr. turned themselves in shortly after the incident. Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson said Davis turned himself in around 6:15 p.m. Wednesday. The investigation is ongoing.
“I’d really like to see that these guys can never work in this field of work again,” Cannon said. “They don’t even need to have a job where they can carry a firearm.”
Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson says the men were detained at the home but released due to questions over the legality of their entrance.
“The officers that were on the scene wanted to confirm with the District Attorney’s Office to make sure that laws have been broken,” he said. “Once the district attorney made the determination that in fact, bail bondsman or not, they had no right to do those things. Then we had to get the interviews done with the witnesses in the victims and we were able to secure the warrants at that point.”
Tilson said the incident should have never happened in the first place and that the woman they were looking for was wanted for minor driving offenses.
“It’s, to be honest, infuriating. They didn’t notify us, this situation had the potential to not only for the juvenile female, it was very dangerous for her but for the neighbors and for the responding officers,” Tilson said. “You’ve got armed men on the scene, armed officers approaching and it had a recipe for disaster.”
According to Tilson, his department has assisted bonding agents before.
“This is not the norm here and we’ve had good relationships with bonding agents in the past and we want to continue those but they should tell us they should notify us and see what information we have on someone they may be looking for,” explained Tilson. “When you have a young lady who was minding her own business in her home in three or more armed men kick down the door like I said before that’s a very dangerous thing and then you know other men respond I worry about what that does to and for her.”
Cannon also told News Channel 11 that he is in the process of hiring an attorney and wants the bondsman who searched his daughter while she was at gunpoint to be charged with sexual assault as well. They are set to appear in court in early September.