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.”