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Terror Drill a Tad Too Realistic

A Tennessee county's emergency-management agency's director is in a bit of hot water after a mock drill he conducted seemed all too real.

Carter County commissioners had just sat down to a meeting in the county courthouse in Elizabethton at 7 p.m. Monday night when three men and a woman rushed in carrying guns, reports the Elizabethton Star.

One man said there was a bomb in the building, and brandished what he said was a timer while declaring "No more wheel tax! I am in control today! No more wheel tax!"

On the agenda for that night's meeting was a proposal to impose a county auto-registration fee of $25 per wheel.

Another man and the woman held two sheriff's deputies at gunpoint at the back of the room, also shouting "No wheel tax! No wheel tax!"

The third man guarded the exit, keeping commissioners and meeting observers from leaving the room. He fired a shot into the air as some people tried to run into locked jury rooms.

As some hostages started to cry, and law-enforcement officers in the audience began to reach for their weapons, up to the podium strolled Elizabethton-Carter County Emergency Management Agency Director Ernest Jackson.

It was all just a drill, he told the angry crowd.

"We conducted a scenario," Jackson explained. "We are required to have two drills per year and this exercise is what we tried to do this evening."

Sheriff John Henson had been told there would be a drill just before the meeting, Jackson said, but hadn't been given details, while the commissioners were left intentionally in the dark.

Had he not been told, Henson, who had a direct line of fire to the man wielding the "bomb" timer, said "I would have dropped him where he stood."

"This should have never happened," Henson added. "I have called the [Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (search)] in. ... I am not sure of charges being placed, but there will be an investigation."

The drill could have "turned bad real quick," said county commissioner Jack Buckles.

Jackson defended the mock takeover.

"I am carrying out a job I was hired to do," he said.
  2004-08-07
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