Public Information Office

10 East Broad Street / P. O. Box 849

Cookeville, TN  38503-0849      

 Public Information Office:  (931) 520-5265

Communications / Dispatch:   (931) 526-2125

 Date / Time of Transmission: March 7, 2002

This information is for: general release-immediate


 We want to provide you with some additional information concerning the Sunday morning (March 3, 2002) shooting of Officer Brad Sperry. As a reminder, the T.B.I. investigation is still in progress so we cannot comment on most aspects of the incident at this time.

 Officer Sperry’s condition is still improving. We have every reason to believe he will fully recover from his injuries. We all appreciate the community’s expressions of concern and support.

 Zac Birdwell’s employment with the Cookeville Police Department has been terminated, effective as of  9:45 A.M. this morning as a result of this incident.

 The following is a statement issued by Chief Robert Terry to the Cookeville City Council at their regular meeting on Thursday (March 7, 2002).

 “As a result of the incident that occurred in the early morning hours of March 3rd, 2002, the Cookeville Police Department has an officer in the hospital suffering from a gunshot wound, and another whose career has ended with the department.  This tragic situation has affected not only the Cookeville Police Department, but also our entire community.

Allow me to first express my 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.  Every employee of the Cookeville Police Department as well as their families has been affected by this tragedy.   Your thoughts, prayers, and words of encouragement serve to help us all through these very difficult times.

There are many questions surrounding the events of that night both from the citizens of our community as well as from members of our department.  The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is conducting a criminal investigation into this matter.  In light of this investigation it is inappropriate at this time to release details regarding the incident until the investigation has been completed.  I realize that this creates an environment in which rumors and speculation can flourish.  Be assured that all of the facts regarding this incident will be made public at the conclusion of the investigations.

 As the Chief of the Cookeville Police Department 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.  The competence, pride and dedication found in our officers and staff is evident in all that our department has achieved.  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.

 With that in mind, I have arranged for an independent investigation to be conducted.  I have requested Burl Smith, a retired agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct this investigation.  Burl Smith is respected by members of both law enforcement and our community as a whole.  I have asked Burl to investigate the events that occurred leading up to the wounding of Officer Sperry.  All officers and civilian employees of the department are cooperating fully.  I am confident that this investigation will provide all of us with the answers we need to put this incident behind us.”          

 If you have information concerning ANY crime, please call CRIMESTOPPERS at 520-STOP (520-7867).


Contact Captain Nathan Honeycutt (931-520-5265 or if you need additional information. Also, please visit our website at