CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (KRON/WKRN) – Police arrested a man accused of disorderly conduct at a memorial site set up for the five service members killed in Thursday’s shooting rampage in Chattanooga.
Investigators say on Sunday an officer noticed James Hutchins at the site become “noticeably disorderly.” The officer said Hutchins arrived on the scene at about 5:30 p.m. and immediately began preaching from the curb, according to an affidavit.
“This behavior went on for hours and the crowd began to respond in a negative way to his boisterous behavior,” said the officer. “Mr. Hutchins was pointing at the crowd and yelling things like “boy” and “queer” to stir a reaction from the crowd.”
The affidavit said Hutchins was talked to several times by Sgt. Lewis Davis and told to be respectful to others and not to incite the crowd. The affidavit stated Hutchins continued to pace the property, yell and scream.
Investigators say at about 9 p.m., Lt. Mark Smeltzer responded to the scene to try and reason with Hutchins, asking him to be respectful to others that were there visiting the crime scene, while acknowledging he still had his freedom of speech.
The affidavit said that during the discussion, Hutchins put his hands on Lt. Smeltzer’s shoulder and the lieutenant politely asked him not to touch him.
Hutchins said that he had the right to preach and speak freely and continued to do so. He again started pointing at into the crowd and “attempted to agitate individuals and engaged them in argumentative discussion.”
According to the report, he got face to face with one man, arguing at close range. Police went over to keep the peace and asked the two individuals to separate.
The affidavit said when Officer Gaines approached Hutchins, he pointed at Gaines and stated, “what if I were to call you a n—–.”
Officer Gaines is African-American, and the affidavit says the crowd began to stir, yell and react very negatively to his comment.
The affidavit said when Lt. Smeltzer approached Mr. Hutchins to address the racial slur and disrespectful language, Hutchins grabbed the lieutenant’s arm and said “what’s up lieutenant.”
The affidavit stated the crowd began to close in on him and that is when police took Hutchins into custody.
He was brought to the county jail on charges of disorderly conduct and inciting a riot.