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Police chief charged with making threat

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Grayson investigator files warrant against Chief James Wagoner after verbal argument over the arrest of a juvenile.

UPDATED 3/22/13:  A Grayson County investigator has filed a warrant against Chief James Wagoner after verbal argument over the arrest of a juvenile. Wagoner has been returned to active duty after an administrative suspension.

By LARRY CHAMBERS and BRIAN FUNK, Staff
INDEPENDENCE — James Wagoner, chief of the Independence Police Department, has been charged with allegedly communicating a threat to an investigator with the Grayson County Sheriff’s Department.
The Virginia State Police reportedly served Wagoner with the warrant at its headquarters in Wytheville on March 18.
Wagoner was charged under section 18.2-427 of the Virginia Code: Use of profane, threatening or indecent language over public airways or by other methods. The charge is a class 1 misdemeanor.
Independence Town Council held a special called meeting Thursday night to discuss in closed session how to handle the situation. Council voted to allow Wagoner to return to work. He had been on administrative suspension since the charge was filed.

The following is a statement issued by Independence Town Manager Jerry Hughes after the special closed session held March 21:

“Based on the limited resources available to the Independence Police Department, the need for each officer to be available to serve the town, and the limited information available to town council regarding the allegations against Chief Wagoner, council determined that the court is the appropriate forum to address this matter at this time. Accordingly, council voted (5 to 0, with the mayor and one council member being absent) to return Chief Wagoner from administrative suspension to active duty, with all interfaces with the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office to be handled by Corporal Adams until this matter is resolved.”

Grayson Sheriff Richard Vaughan said the incident was connected to the sheriff’s office’s arrest of a juvenile at Grayson County High School in Independence on March 13 as part of an ongoing investigation with the Galax Police Department.
Grayson Investigator Doug Carner was traveling on March 15 when he received a call from Wagoner on his cell phone. According to the sheriff, Wagoner was allegedly irate and made threats against Carner and others.
“Chief Wagoner was upset because he was not informed of the arrest,” Vaughan said.
Carner stopped at the Bland County Sheriff’s Department, where he swore out the warrant against Wagoner.
Independence Town Manager Jerry Hughes said this is a personnel matter and declined to comment on the situation.
Wagoner has not responded to requests for comment.
Sheriff Vaughan provided some details of the arrest at GCHS on March 13 that sparked the exchange between Wagoner and Carner.
“The juvenile had photographs of himself with firearms, long guns and handguns on his cell phone,” Vaughan said. Carner and School Resource Officer Kevin Watson investigated the incident, along with Capt. James Cox of the Galax Police Department.
Galax Police Chief Rick Clark said that it was determined that the youth was in possession of the guns illegally, not because of their age, but because “the Code of Virginia prohibits certain persons from possessing firearms, due to a criminal record or mental health status.”
Galax became involved because the alleged firearms possession incident, as depicted in the cell phone photos, occurred in the city.
Sgt. Chris Brown of the Galax Police Department obtained petitions charging the juvenile with possession of a firearm by a person prohibited from possessing.
The juvenile is still in custody, Vaughan said.

See galaxgazette.com for updates to this story, including the outcome of Thursday’s special called meeting of Independence Town Council.