By Tiffeny Owens
The Cullman Times
A Hanceville dispatcher has resigned and a city police officer and second dispatcher have been suspended without pay after an incident at the city’s firing range left one of those employees with serious leg injuries.
An internal investigation revealed the trio had been shooting fireworks — a violation of a city ordinance — on the police firing range late Sept. 7 while they were all off duty. At some point, dispatcher supervisor Michelle Allen was accidentally ran over by her own vehicle, and she was rushed to Cullman Regional Medical Center where she said she was admitted, held overnight for treatment and released the next day.
Hanceville Mayor Kenneth Nail suspended police officer Will Bynum for two weeks and Allen for one week, said Police Chief Bob Long. The second dispatcher, Kathryn Key, resigned her position. Bynum has worked for the city just over a year while Allen has been an employee for four years and Key for two years.
“Yes, this is disappointing, but we hold our employees accountable for their actions,” Long said.
Added Nail: “Any time city employees do things that put the city in a negative light or that reflect badly on the city, we’re going to deal with them.”
The incident started when Hanceville police responded to complaints from neighbors about fireworks being set off in an apartment complex where one of the employees lives late Sept. 7, Long said.
Hanceville, like many cities, has a local ordinance that forbids shooting fireworks except on New Year’s and July 4. Long said police routinely handle firework complaints by simply telling the offender to stop shooting them.
After police left the apartment complex, the trio went to the firing range and continued to shoot fireworks. Officials would not comment whether alcohol was a factor in the incident, but Long said the city’s investigation determined no alcohol was consumed at the city’s firing range. Allen maintains that a blood alcohol test performed on her at CRMC proves she did not have alcohol in her system.
Allen said the accident happened when she thought she had put her vehicle in park, stepped out and then the vehicle rolled over her legs.
“I regret everything that happened every minute,” said a tearful Allen Thursday. “I’ve never been in trouble, never been written up for anything. I work hard for the City of Hanceville. I’m just very sorry this all happened.”
Although she didn’t have any broken bones, Allen suffered nerve damage in her legs and can not walk well. She will have to undergo extensive physical therapy in the months ahead.
With Bynum out for the next week, another officer on military leave and a third on light duty with a shoulder injury, the 10-officer strong police department is down to seven. Long said full-time officers are having to work overtime and part-time officers are being called in to cover shifts.
“We treated our employees more severely than we would have if this involved citizens shooting fireworks,” Long said. “We hold our officers and dispatchers to a higher standard.”
Tiffeny Owens can be reached email at email@example.com or by phone at 256-734-2131, ext. 135.