DA Coty Wamp
District Attorney Coty Wamp, at a Friday news conference, said she is seeking to transfer to adult criminal court five juveniles involved in two violent carjackings Jan. 26 and Jan. 28.
The carjacking Jan. 26 took place on DeSales Avenue near Memorial Hospital and involved a 14-year-old and two 16-year-olds.
The carjacking Jan. 28 took place on Roanoke Avenue off Wilcox Boulevard and involved a 13-year-old, 14-year-old and 15-year-old. Thirteen-year-olds are not eligible to be transferred to adult criminal court.
“They have a district attorney right now that’s going to hold them accountable,” DA Wamp said.
She connected the violent carjackings to the county’s rising gun theft.
She said 386 firearms, mostly handguns, were stolen from vehicles in Hamilton County in 2022 - 360 of them within city limits and the vast majority within six to eight miles of the city center.
“We are going to campaign against this issue,” she said.
Tennessee’s permit-less carry law took effect in 2021, increasing theft of a firearm from a misdemeanor to a class E felony, which mandates 180 days in jail.
“We are going to enforce it harshly,” DA Wamp said. “These are serious types of charges. They are terrorizing. We have got to make an example.”
Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw will make the ultimate decision on whether or not to transfer the cases.
He made this statement on Friday afternoon, "I will not/cannot talk about any pending case(s).
"I’m on record numerous times talking about the serious life-altering consequences for some actions made by youth offenders. I go out and deliver that message in the community at every opportunity.
"It appears to me that Attorney General Wamp is trying to help get that message out too. There are more than several youthful offenders who were transferred from Juvenile Court, convicted in Criminal Court, and are now serving long sentences, even life sentences in prison. That’s always heart-breaking. That’s why it’s important for high-risk young people – and their families and all who care for them – to hear General Wamp’s message.
"Tennessee Code Annotated 37-1-134 walks through the types of cases that can be transferred to adult court and the factors that the court considers in making the ultimate determination. My job is to ensure every offender who appears in Hamilton County Juvenile Court has competent and zealous representation, their day in court, and to use every bit of my ability to apply all of the admissible facts to the factors that I am to consider in making the decision to transfer or to continue to use the rehabilitation tools that are available to me. I have been doing that for about 10 years and will continue to do that in each case that appears before me."
DA Wamp said gun theft from cars is also contributing to county numbers of aggravated robbery, attempted homicide and homicide.
“Firearms are really at the crux of all these different types of crime,” she said, classifying the issue a “health emergency.”
“The public should not leave a firearm in a vehicle,” she said. “Please be mindful of what is left in your vehicle.” A crime is never the victim’s fault, she said, but “we do need to be observant,” she said.
Smash-and-grabs are rare today, she said, and that usually the car door is unlocked.