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Johnson City church vandalized ahead of grand opening; four charged in rash of burglaries

August 14th, 2013 11:14 pm by Rex Barber

Johnson City church vandalized ahead of grand opening; four charged in rash of burglaries

Pastor Tim Jackson shows damage Wednesday at Faith Fellowship Church, which was vandalized and burglarized ahead of its grand opening scheduled for Sunday. Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press


Pastor Tim Jackson got a call early Wednesday morning informing him that the new church he has been working to restart all year was vandalized and possibly burglarized during the night, only days before he was to deliver his first sermon there.


A metal stake used to support a grand opening sign had been pulled from the ground and possibly used to smash out a window at Faith Fellowship Church, 810 Gauranda Drive, Jackson guessed. 


Nothing appeared to have been stolen, though. 


“If they made it inside they didn’t make it inside long, because it’s obvious they tried to exit and run but they were caught by the police,” Jackson said.


Indeed, Johnson City police Lt. Steve Sherfey said that around 1:15 a.m. Wednesday Zackery Scott Toney, 19, 1308 E. Lynwood Circle, Aaron Blake Davenport, 18, 146 Sheffield Circle, Gray, and Nicholas Wayne Higgins, 18, 190 Skyline Drive, were found a short distance away from the church and charged with various burglary offenses.


Police found a backpack with burglary tools in it that appeared to have been discarded in a nearby bush.


Police had been investigating a rash of burglaries at churches throughout Johnson City and had increased patrols at churches as a result. 


“One of the patrol captains actually saw the busted glass from the window,” Sherfey said.


After arriving at his church Wednesday morning, Jackson said he inspected everything and prayed for those responsible before contacting police. He said he was willing to drop any charges but police told him about the rash of burglaries.


“I grew up in the inner cities of Atlanta and Chattanooga,” he said. “And I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. I didn’t have good examples of integrity and character. And so I often ran with crowds like this doing stupid stuff like this, so I can totally relate to those kids and what they’re dealing with.”


  According to police, Higgins was charged with 10 counts of burglary, two counts of attempted burglary, two counts of theft of property over $1,000, three counts of theft of property over $500 and two counts of theft of property under $500. 


Higgins was charged in connection to the July 27 burglary of Westerly Heights Baptist Church at 628 N. Center St., the July 29 burglary of Skyline Heights Baptist Church at 1601 Skyline Drive, the July 30 attempted burglary to Piney Grove Baptist Church at 1004 E. Lakeview Drive, the Aug. 4 burglary of Hosanna Fellowship Church at 715 Sunset Drive, the Monday burglary to AME Zion Saint Paul’s Church at 201 Welbourne St. and the attempted burglary of Faith Fellowship Church on Wednesday.


Higgins was additionally charged in connection with five other business burglaries occurring in the month of July and one in the month of August, according to police. 


These burglaries were the July 1 burglary to the Angry Penguin located at 123 W. Main Street, the July 9 burglaries of the Johnson City Animal Shelter located at 525 Sells Ave. and Classic Billards located at 429 W. Walnut St., the July 10 burglary of Mojo Skate Shop located at 729 E. Walnut St., the July 13 burglary of Kiwanis Park located at 717 W. Market St. and the Aug. 6 burglary of Landmark Corporation located at 935 N. State of Franklin Road. 


Higgins was being held in the Washington County Detention Center on $143,000.00 bond.


Toney was charged with two counts of burglary, two counts of attempted burglary and two counts of theft of property under $500.


Toney was charged in connection with the Monday burglary of AME Zion Saint Paul’s Church located at 201 Welbourne St. and Wednesday’s attempted burglary of Faith Fellowship Church.


Toney was also charged with the attempted burglary to the Boys and Girls Club located at 2210 W. Market St. early Wednesday and the November 7, 2012 burglary of Mize Farm and Garden Warehouse located at 625 Wesinpar Drive. 


Toney was being held in the WCDC in lieu of a $42,000.00 bond.


Davenport was charged with two counts of attempted burglary.


His charges stem from his involvement in the attempted burglaries of the Boys and Girls Club and Faith Fellowship Church 


He was currently being held in the Washington County Detention Center in lieu of $20,000.00 bond.


Sherfey said after talking with Toney, Davenport and Higgins, another man, Aaron Keith Coggins, 18, 1308 E. Lynnwood Circle, was also picked up and charged with the Aug. 6 burglary at the Landmark Corporation that Higgins was also charged with.


Coggins also faces a charge of theft of property over $1,000.


He was being held on $11,000 bond in the WCDC.


 All four individuals were scheduled to appear today in Sessions Court. 


Police said the investigation is continuing and more charges are possible.


Jackson, the pastor of Faith Fellowship, hopes to go by the jail and speak with the men charged in the burglaries to offer encouragement and invite them to the church.


“It’s not a life you want to live,” he said.


The church previously at this location closed its doors in January. Jackson has been working with others for the past six or seven months to plant a new church here. His first sermon will be Sunday.


“So this is grand opening week,” Jackson said. “We’ve sent out 45,000 post cards in the last two weeks, we’ve made 30,000 phone calls, we’ve knocked on 10,000 doors here in the community, put signs all over Johnson City. So our hope is to have a full house Sunday morning, with people just like this (alleged burglars), people who’ve realize that ‘hey, there’s a better way to live than what the world has to offer.”

See an earlier version of this story below:

Four Johnson City men have been charged in a rash of recent burglaries.

Johnson City police released the following information about the arrests. Keep visiting JohnsonCityPress.com for additional information from Assistant News Editor Rex Barber, including comments from a pastor of one the vandalized churches.

Johnson City police news release:

Since July 27, 2013, the Johnson City Police Department has been conducting an investigation into a series of burglaries at local churches throughout the city. As a result of this investigation, three individuals have been arrested on various charges. Arrested was  Zackery Scott Toney, 8/7/1994 of 1308 E. Lynwood Circle Johnson City, Tennessee, Aaron Blake Davenport, 9/19/1994 of 146 Sheffield Circle, Gray, Tennessee and Nicholas Wayne Higgins, 9/12/1994 of 190 Skyline Drive, Johnson City, Tennessee.

 Nicholas Wayne Higgins was arrested and charged with ten counts of Burglary, two counts of Attempted Burglary, two counts of Theft of Property over $1,000.00, three counts of Theft of Property over $500.00 and two counts of Theft of Property under $500.00. Higgins is charged in connection to the July 27, 2013 burglary to Westerly Heights Baptist Church at 628 N. Center Street, the July 29, 2013 burglary to Skyline Heights Baptist Church at 1601 Skyline Drive, the July 30, 2013 attempted burglary to the Piney Grove Baptist Church at 1004 E. Lakeview Drive, the August 4, 2013 burglary to Hosanna Fellowship Church at 715 Sunset Drive, the August 12, 2013 burglary to AME Zion Saint Paul’s Church at 201 Welbourne Street,  and the August 14, 2013 attempted burglary to the Faith Fellowship Church located at 810 Gauranda Drive, Johnson City, Tennessee.

 Nicholas Wayne Higgins was additionally charged in connection with five other business burglaries occurring in the month of July and one in the month of August. These were the July 1, 2013 burglary to the Angry Penguin located at 123 W. Main Street, the July 9, 2013 burglary to the Johnson City Animal Shelter located at 525 Sells Avenue and the Classic Billards located at 429 W. Walnut Street, the July 10, 2013 burglary to the Mojo Skate Shop located at 729 E. Walnut Street,  the July 13, 2013 burglary to Kiwanis Park located at 717 W. Market Street and the August 6, 2013 burglary to the Landmark Corporation located at 935 N. State of Franklin Road. Higgins is currently being held in the Washington County Detention Center on a $143,000.00 bond.

  Zackery Scott Toney was arrested and charged with two counts of Burglary, two counts of Attempted Burglary and two counts of Theft of Property under $500.00. Toney was charged in connection with two church burglaries, the August 12, 2013 burglary to AME Zion Saint Paul’s Church located at 201 Welbourne Street and the August 14, 2013 attempted burglary to the Faith Fellowship Church located at 810 Gauranda Drive, Johnson City. Toney was also charged with the attempted burglary to the Boys and Girls Club located at 2210 W. Market Street in the early morning hours of August 14, 2013 and the November 7, 2012 burglary to the Mize Farm and Garden Warehouse located at 625 Wesinpar Drive, Johnson City. Toney is currently being held in the Washington County Detention Center in lieu of a $42,000.00 bond.

  Aaron Blake Davenport was arrested and charged with two counts of Attempted Burglary. Davenport’s charges stem from his involvement into the attempted burglaries occurring in the early morning hours of August 14, 2013, to the Boys and Girls Club located at 2210 W. Market Street and Faith Fellowship Church located at 810 Gauranda Drive, Johnson City. Davenport is currently being held in the Washington County Detention Center in lieu of a $20,000.00 bond.

  A fourth individual, Aaron Keith Coggins, 4/19/1995 of 1308 E. Lynnwood Circle, Johnson City was charged with Burglary and Theft of Property over $1,000.00 after his involvement into the August 6, 2013 burglary at the Landmark Corporation located at 935 N. State of Franklin Road, Johnson City was uncovered through this investigation. Coggins is being held in the Washington County Detention Center In lieu of an $11,000.00 bond.

 All four individuals will be arraigned in the General Sessions Court of Washington County, Tennessee on August 15, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. The investigation into these individuals is continuing with additional charges possible.


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