ERWIN — An incident in the parking lot of the Unicoi County Courthouse in which an individual allegedly threatened to kill a Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department deputy led to the Wednesday afternoon arrest of a Johnson City man, according to Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley.
James Barnett, 47, 624 Lamont St., Johnson City, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault on a deputy.
According to Hensley, a court officer was alerted to a suspicious man who was hiding behind a vehicle in the rear parking lot of the courthouse. The deputy responded to investigate the man, who was in close proximity to the presiding judge’s vehicle and was later identified as Barnett, Hensley said. The sheriff also said police had issued a be-on-the-lookout alert for Barnett prior to the court officer’s contact with him.
Hensley said when the deputy approached Barnett, Barnett stated to the officer “I’m going to kill you.” Hensley said the officer reported that Barnett then reached behind his back and pulled a homemade device which was fashioned to look like a gun and pointed it at the deputy.
Hensley said he could not comment further on the device allegedly wielded by Barnett or Barnett’s motives at this time, but he had high praise for his officers. The sheriff said police officers faced with such a threat have only a “split-second” to react, and Hensley said he was glad that officers were able to effect a safe arrest of Barnett.
“It was just at the mercy of the good Lord that they didn’t shoot him,” Hensley said.
Officers from the sheriff’s department and Erwin Police Department responded to the scene and Barnett was taken into custody.
Hensley said the incident is still under investigation.
“I commend the response of my deputies in this case,” Hensley said. “The situation was resolved without anyone being hurt or killed. I thank God for that.”