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Today in the Tennessee news roundup: Policeman injured during pursuit

Staff Report • Apr 7, 2014 at 7:28 AM

Policeman injured during pursuit

NASHVILLE — A policeman is recovering at a Nashville hospital after his vehicle swerved to avoid another motorist during a pursuit and struck a tree.

According to a release from the Nashville Police Department, Officer Nicholas Berens is in stable condition at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Officials say Berens was traveling Sunday morning to assist another officer in the pursuit of a shooting suspect when the driver of a car in front of Berens suddenly stopped in response to the officer's lights and sirens.

Berens swerved to avoid the car and hit a tree. He was pinned inside before eventually being extricated by the fire department. He suffered several fractures and cuts.

Officials say the car that made Berens swerve continued on and was not present during the crash investigation.


African American Music Museum on track to be built

NASHVILLE — Construction on the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville could start as early as next year.

Project leaders told The Tennessean the construction will be one component of a larger redevelopment on the site of the old Nashville Convention Center in downtown.

The wheels were put in motion to build a museum to honor African American culture in 2000 when the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce created a task force to study the issue.

Initially, the project had a fundraising goal of more than $43 million, but that was reduced after the city offered up the convention center. In 2006, the city committed $10 million toward the project, and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said the city's commitment still stands.

"I believe there is strong interest and demand for this type of museum, and the planned location is in a vibrant section of our downtown," he said.

Known best for country music, some say, Nashville's original "Music Row" was Jefferson Street, which until the 1970s was a vibrant corridor of live music venues where iconic musicians like Little Richard and Jimi Hendrix built their careers and where local legends like Frank Howard, Jimmy Church and Marion James earned a living.


Tree-planting ceremony to honor crime victims

NASHVILLE — A tree-planting ceremony in Nashville on Monday will honor crime victims.

The state Board of Parole, Department of Correction and the transitional program TRICOR will also honor local and statewide advocates who work with crime victims.

The event is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park.

It is the official kickoff for a series of tree-planting ceremonies sponsored by the agencies across Tennessee during the week.

Additional events are scheduled for Memphis, Knoxville, Bristol, Chattanooga, Murfreesboro, Jackson and Clarksville.


Jurors: Murder case involved deep soul-searching

MEMPHIS — A group of jurors in a recent Shelby County death penalty case say they engaged in "deep soul-searching" that may have forever altered some of them.

Forty-three-year-old Calvin Rogers, along with another person, was charged in the Sept. 17, 2010, robbery and murder of a 21-year-old New Yorker. Victim Ameer Althaibani had gotten engaged and traveled to Memphis to spend time with relatives before he was to return home for his wedding.

Althaibani and his two cousins had taken the wrong exit off the interstate and stopped at a gas station in Binghamton when they were confronted by Rogers and his cousin, Scott Lee.

Prosecutors said Lee fired the fatal shot, but they argued that Rogers also fired at the vehicle. Under state law, Rogers could be considered criminally responsible for the death even if he didn't fire a shot.

Jury foreman Dominic Desiderio told The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/1fODqzD) that after closing arguments, the jury deliberated only about an hour and a half before one of the jurors began to shake and insist she didn't understand what was going on.

She was sent home and Commercial Appeal business reporter Tom Bailey, an alternate, was picked to serve in her place.


Humboldt police investigated in suspect's death

HUMBOLDT — State officials are investigating the sudden death of a Humboldt man police officers were struggling to apprehend.

The Jackson Sun reports (http://bit.ly/1hg1z7L) a news release from the Humboldt Police Department says two officers saw 45-year-old Eddie Ray Epperson running in the streets on Thursday night.

According to police, Epperson was almost struck by a car and appeared to be intoxicated. Police say Epperson became aggressive when the officers caught up with him, shoving one of them. Police say Epperson became suddenly unresponsive when the officers tried to get him under control.

Epperson was taken by ambulance to Humboldt General Hospital where he died at 1 p.m. Friday.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is involved at the request of District Attorney Garry Brown. The officers' names were not released.


Veterans commissioner wants more jobs, education

BLOUNTVILLE — Tennessee's Commissioner for Veterans Affairs says the department is widening its focus to address needs like unemployment, education and suicide prevention.

The Kingsport Times-News reports the remarks from Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder came Friday during a veterans job fair in Blountville.

Grinder said it was unacceptable that unemployment for Tennessee veterans last year was 6.9 percent.

She also wants more veterans to attend college. Grinder said 35 percent of Tennessee veterans have at least some college. She said legislation passed this year allowing veterans to pay in-state tuition should help move that number up.

And Grinder said she is concerned that in 2012, nearly 200 veterans committed suicide and another 2,400 were in Tennessee prisons and county jails.

She said veteran treatment courts are a step in the right direction.

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