Gang-Related Gathering At Short-Term Rental Property Keeps Signal Mountain Police Busy All Weekend Tracing IDs, Stolen Property

Sunday, January 19, 2020 - by Judy Frank
A seemingly routine call Friday night about a fight at a short-term rental property in Old Towne turned into a weekend-long investigation for Signal Mountain Police, and renewed efforts by town officials to get a handle on how to regulate such properties.

According to Chief Mike Williams, 29 people – some with gang affiliations – were located inside the house, along with a variety of handguns and a vehicle stolen in North Georgia. The 29 were mostly adult males, he said, with a smattering of teenagers and women among them.

Only two of the individuals were carrying IDs, he said, and police have spent the weekend following up on the verbal identifications they gave to determine their validity.

The police chief said one individual, Armond Dews of North Georgia, had an outstanding warrant for robbery and was taken into custody.
The remaining 28 remain free, but the investigation is ongoing and further arrests are possible.

Signal officials, who already were researching the issue of short term rentals, were taken by surprise by the incident.

“Town staff was already in the process of identifying all homes that are operating as short term rentals,” according to Mayor Dan Landrum. “(We) have assigned additional staff to expedite the process, and application packets will be mailed to identified properties this week even as the research continues.”

Chief Mike Williams said there was nobody outside at 10:34 p.m. Friday when three second shift officers responded to a reported “fight” at 404 South Street.

However, he added, several vehicles were parked in the driveway and behind the house, and officers could smell marijuana and see “signs of an altercation on the back porch.”

Once officers discovered the number of people at the house, he said, they radioed for mutual aid backup. Before long, they were joined by officers from both Chattanooga Police Department and Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department as well as third shift officers from Signal.

The full text of the police chief’s statement follows:

A "fight" call came in at 10:34pm Friday night at 404 South Street and our three second shift officers responded. There were several vehicles parked in the driveway and behind the house but nobody was outside. Officers smelled the odor of marijuana and there were signs of an altercation on the back deck. They finally got someone to the door and ended up finding 29 individuals inside the house, at least one of which was identified by one of our officers as having gang affiliation. At that time a mutual aid request for backup was made via radio and Chattanooga officers as well as Hamilton County officers responded as did our midnight shift officers who were just coming on duty. Each individual was interviewed by officers. Most had no identification but gave no resistance. One individual had a warrant for robbery in Georgia and was arrested on scene. A search of the house turned up 8 handguns, three of which were reported stolen, along with a small amount of drugs. Those firearms were not located on the individuals themselves. The firearms will be processed through Chattanooga PD's firearms unit and the drugs will be sent to the lab for identification.  One of the vehicles in the driveway had been stolen and was towed to a wrecker yard for processing. The investigation is ongoing and additional arrests are expected.

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