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Former Claiborne County Deputy sentenced to probation

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Noah Arnwine - LCJ

A former Claiborne County sheriff's deputy who fired a gun into interstate traffic for no reason in 2018 walked free hours after being booked into jail on Wednesday morning. Noah Arnwine, now 21, turned himself in to be booked into the Loudon County jail on a warrant for felony reckless endangerment. He promptly stood before a judge, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of the same charge, paid his fine of $2 and walked away with 11 months, 29 days of unsupervised probation. He also will be required to perform community service and take a gun safety course. The deal — struck by defense attorney Wesley Stone and 9th Judicial District Attorney General Russell Johnson — wrapped up a ludicrous case in less than three hours. By booking Arnwine into jail, Johnson said, prosecutors were able to treat him as an inmate and thus get around an order from the Tennessee Supreme Court suspending most in-person court proceedings amid the coronavirus pandemic. "As district attorneys, we see a lot of the stupid things that people do," Johnson wrote in a statement to Knox News. "We are all human, and none of us is immune from mental lapses. But gun safety is critical, especially as a law enforcement officer. There was no good reason, in my opinion, for Deputy Arnwine to be playing with a loaded revolver in that car and pulling the trigger." 'It really freaked me out' On Nov. 2, 2018, Arnwine was riding back from an inmate transport in the passenger seat of a county cruiser when the then-19-year-old pulled out his personal .38-caliber Ruger, emptied all but one chamber, pointed the gun at the windshield and pulled the trigger "as if he was playing Russian roulette," according to his partner. The bullet pierced the cruiser's windshield and whizzed into traffic during rush hour on Interstate 75 North near the Philadelphia, Tennessee, exit. "I slowed down to like 40 on the interstate, waiting for somebody to just wreck and start flipping end over end because they got the back of their head blown off," Deputy Cody Lankford, who was driving at the time, said in a recording obtained by Knox News. "It really freaked me out, but I don’t think anybody got hurt. It’s just the principle that he’s that stupid, and it kind of worries me." Lankford reported the shooting to Arnwine's supervisor, former Assistant Chief Deputy Mark Ellis. "Between the muzzle flash and being temporarily deafened, it took me a second to think of what exactly to do," Lankford told Ellis. "(You) may need to call hospitals around Philadelphia, Tennessee, and make sure no one showed up with an unexplained bullet wound." Ellis said he did exactly that, but didn't find any injuries tied to the shooting. 'Must be a slow news day' Ellis said he recommended Claiborne County Sheriff Bobby Brooks fire Arnwine and charge him with a felony. Arnwine's stepmother works as the sheriff's secretary. His father, a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper, used to work with the sheriff. Ellis said the sheriff ignored his advice, kept the shooting quiet and instead forced Ellis out over a struggle with a jail inmate. That struggle, which ended when Ellis used a stun gun to subdue the inmate as he fought with half a dozen officers, led to Ellis' indictment on charges of assault and official oppression. Ellis' attorney, T. Scott Jones, said his client did nothing wrong and called the prosecution a trumped-up excuse for the sheriff to get rid of Ellis. A hearing in Ellis' case is set for next month. The sheriff, for his part, called Ellis a "full-blown liar," said he never saw a recommendation Arnwine be fired and downplayed the shooting as an accident that didn't need investigating. "It must be a slow news day if you're asking about this," Brooks told Knox News when first asked about the shooting. Arnwine held onto his badge for nine months after the shooting, only to be fired just as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation launched a probe into the matter. Brooks, who took office just after his predecessor was indicted, said the timing was a coincidence and that he fired Arnwine for refusing an order to go to a jail tower. The investigation was slowed, in part, by a question over where exactly the shooting took place. Arnwine fired his gun at the Loudon-Monroe county line, south of Knoxville. Each county is in a separate judicial district, so District Attorneys General Steve Crump and Russell Johnson kicked the case back and forth. "I hope and think that Noah Arnwine is sincerely embarrassed by his actions," Johnson told Knox News on Wednesday. "As a former deputy, there has to be a certain level of humiliation in the process of being arrested, booked and brought into court before a judge to admit to such conduct. "I think that Arnwine will be glad to put this behind him and move forward."

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