Sheriff's office discovers loaded gun on arrested woman

Monday, December 13, 2010 at 7:19pm

A woman arrested over the weekend made it to the jail before a loaded gun was discovered in her purse.

Metro police arrested 24-year-old Portia C. Tharpe on a domestic assault charge Saturday and turned her over to the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office to be booked into jail where a sheriff’s office correctional officer searched her purse and discovered a small Derringer–type handgun inside a box.

Tharpe had been in night court in connection with a charge against her boyfriend for assaulting her when officials determined that she too would be charged for assault in the incident. 

Metro police spokesman Don Aaron said shortly after the night court appearance, Officer Dustin Johnson took Tharpe into custody and to jail without searching Tharpe’s purse, “which is something that he definitely should have done,” Aaron said.

DCSO spokeswoman Karla Weikal said the correctional officer allegedly found the gun, which was loaded with two .25-caliber rounds, in the secured booking area where even officers don’t carry guns.

Tharpe was consequently charged with possession of contraband in jail.

"It is extremely important that thorough searches are done of every inmate because a loaded weapon in a secured facility has great potential for danger,” Weikal said.

Weikal said that during the 16 years she has worked at the sheriff’s office, this is only the third time a gun has been confiscated during booking.

Johnson, who graduated from the police academy in April, will likely face disciplinary action for failing to properly search someone in custody, Aaron said.

A similar incident occurred early in June when correctional officers found a loaded gun in the waistband of a man’s pants after police brought him in for booking.

The police department suspended officer Travis Baxter for eight days without pay in that incident. Baxter graduated from the police academy in October 2009.

Aaron also stressed the importance of searching those taken into custody, saying the safety of other police officers, citizens and the correctional officers all depend on it.

"The search of the purse by officer Johnson should have taken place for the benefit of all concerned,” Aaron said. “And I think he understands that.” 

6 Comments on this post:

By: courier37027 on 12/13/10 at 6:27

Make surveillance tapes public. That way we can see if Deputy Johnson was talking on his cell phone, watching television, eating or whatever was distracting him from work. Don Aaron is quick to spread sensationalized hyperbole on alleged criminals when arrested, but slow to criticize idiots in his own department.

By: Taxedtodeath on 12/13/10 at 7:30

What do you expect for the CO`s there just barely a step up from a Rent a cop

they stay on their Cell phones 80% of the time

i say Privatize them just like other parts of metro.

By: nanosecond615 on 12/14/10 at 2:19

Gents,
Re read the story before you go and state your lame brain opinions. The story clearly states a police officer failed to search the person. The deputy FOUND the weapon. In doing so, that person might have saved a life that night. Taxedtodeath, name a part of metro that is private? You mean the janitors in the schools, right? Because metro police, fire, ems, and sheriff deputies are allow employed by the city employees paid , have metro hr for any issues, and bosses are elected by vote(i. e. sheriff, chief of police, and so on.)

By: xhexx on 12/14/10 at 8:18

This is the 2nd officer in as many weeks that committed a major faux pas from that April class. MNPD needs to take a hard look at the way they're training their officers.

By: gohomenow on 12/15/10 at 7:22

Thank God no officers where hurt there.

By: xoxo on 12/19/10 at 8:53

Oh how I love the ignorance. You are quick to judge when you may not know the whole story. You only go on what the media tells you which most of the time is very vague. These officers put their lives on the line everyday. Believe it or not they aren't all jerks. Some of them actually care about others. One day you may be in a position where you need help from one of these rent-a-cops and I hope you get the one that actually cares about what happens to you. Most people, unlike you I am sure, make mistakes. So until you know the truth and all of the facts maybe you should continue to read the story and keep your thoughts to yourself. Or better yet, if you feel like you could do a better job then I suggest you apply to the next academy. I hope you all have happy holidays and enjoy the time that you have with your family because some of these officers will not get the opportunity to enjoy the time with theirs. They will be at work, talking on their cell phones, watching TV or eating...I am sure.