The Birdwell dossier
What did Birdwell have on Sperry or Gibson to let this attempted murderer walk?
March 3, 2002, Samuel Zachary Birdwell goes to a party with other off-duty cops, gets drunk in a drinking contest, after the party he threatens to kill a citizen then shoots a cop who was attempting to avert a crime although he was off duty -- March 3, 2002
March 4, 2002, Police Chief Bob Terry orders an Internal Affairs Investigation into the shooting. Document
On March 7, Cookeville Police Chief Bob Terry expresses sincere appreciation to the Mayor, members of the City Council, the City Manager, and all of the citizens of our community who have supported our Police Department and its officers during these most difficult times. " As the Chief of the Cookeville Police Department," he says, "I am proud of the men and women under my command. Our department is staffed by officers and civilian employees I would gladly hold up for comparison to any other police department." -- In a message to his department and state news organizations, Terry says:
"I absolutely refuse to allow the actions of one individual to cast a shadow on all we have accomplished. I feel an obligation to every man and woman employed by the Cookeville Police Department, to prove without any doubt, that this was an isolated incident and does not reflect on the quality of this department or its personnel. I will not allow the officers and staff of this department to work under a cloud of suspicion and mistrust.
Terry hires a retired
independent investigator to "investigate the events that occurred leading
up to the wounding of Officer Sperry."
Putnam Pit ridicules Terry for
trying to create the mistaken sense that his department is not in serious
trouble. See: Police
cannot buy respect or legitimacy: In the absence of integrity, nothing will
72% of Putnam Pit readers participating in poll call inquiry a cover up. 9.6 percent believe the results of the city's investigation.
D.A. Bill Gibson brings charges against Birdwell for aggravated assault -- a class D felony -- that guarantee pre-trial diversion before seemingly taking the high road by acknowledging the DA's office has a conflict and steps out of the Birdwell case -- but first Gibson hand-picks the special prosecutor who sets Birdwell free while Gibson acknowledged he knows Birdwell and shouldn't be involved. Indictment. Curious minds wonder whether a conflict should have precluded the DA from determining the charges,
Court issues a Capias (arrest warrant) eight days after Birdwell shot Sperry then fled the crime scene without rendering aid.
Court sets Bond
Outside prosecutor is named by DA Gibson, despite his conflict.
Suppression of witnesses in discovery
Is diversion appropriate when Birdwell had meant to kill a citizen? In Putnam County, yes. Furthermore, it is an enhancement if the victim of an aggravated assault is a law enforcement officer doing his job -- which Sperry was doing when he tried to physically restrain Birdwell from shooting Sperry's neighbor. But Birdwell gets diversion nonetheless, and doesn't even have to pay restitution to Sperry.
Putnam Pit obtains what the City claims is its Internal Affairs report, which suggests that many of off-duty Cookeville cops were drinking it up and partying together; that Birdwell's improper behavior began at the party many officers recognized he should leave, but no interviews or correspondence from any officer at the party, with the exception of Sperry, is in the report.