Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, descended upon the Claiborne County Justice Center, seizing documents and searching Sheriff’s Office vehicles. But why? Here’s the latest news on the situation.
Seizing the Documents
The raid began as soon as the Claiborne County Justice Center opened for the day on May 1, 2018. While no officials commented on the investigation or raid, witnesses reported that agents went through numerous Sheriff’s Office vehicles, opening their hoods and trunks and conducting in-depth searches of each one.
Local media sources also said that the Sheriff’s Office’s property vault was searched. Claiborne County Mayor Jack Daniels later confirmed that documents were also seized from the county finance office, as well as the Sheriff’s Office.
What Are They Looking For?
What exactly are the federal investigators looking for? For the moment, everyone associated with the raid is not going into any detail on what they hope to find during the investigation or who it involves. Inquiries into why the searches were conducted were met with “no comment,” or redirected to another official party, which did not supply any additional comments.
Footage taken of the raid shows unmarked vehicles parked outside the Claiborne County Justice Center, with officers exiting the building.
Finance Director Sam Owen revealed that he received no information about the investigation. Instead, he was presented with a court order to provide the documents, including vendor checks since 2013.
The public information officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Sharry Dedman-Beard, only said, “It is the policy of our office to not comment on ongoing investigations.
Sheriff David Ray’s Response
Naturally, the investigation brings thoughts of many people to Sheriff David Ray, who has had a number of brushes with the law during his over 50 years in law enforcement. In 1986, Ray, who was Claiborne County’s General Sessions judge at the time, was acquitted of federal charges stemming from allegations that he was paid off to allow businesses to have poker machines.
Twenty years later, he faced allegations of raping a woman while on a hunting trip. Just before the trial was to begin, the victim asked that the charges be dismissed, after which Ray completed two years of probation. A year after his probation was complete, he was charged with a misdemeanor for hunting without a license.
In 2016, Ray, along with other members of the Sheriff’s Office, was sued for $13.0 million as part of a federal civil rights lawsuit. The suit, filed by the widow of a man who was gunned down during a standoff, alleged that Ray and other authorities orchestrated his death through both negligence and ill will when the victim threatened to sue the department for ill treatment.
Ray, who is currently seeking a fourth term as Claiborne County Sheriff, was not present during the raid, and only said, “There’s been a lot of rumors going around but we’re not ready to say anything.”
As of this writing, no charges have been laid in relation to the raid or investigation.