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Fundraiser for deputy facing second-degree murder trial scheduled

John Thompson • Jan 31, 2018 at 11:39 PM

Blue Blood Brotherhood, a national organization dedicated to support current and retired law enforcement officers, is turning a Johnson City Super Bowl party into a fundraiser for Carter County Deputy Josh “Hoppy” Hopkins.

Hopkins is best known as an Ashe County, North Carolina, deputy in the National Geographic Channel program “Southern Justice.”

While the reality television program featured Hopkins responding to many dangerous situations, one incident that was not part of the program occurred on July 8, 2015.

That’s when an incident led to a man’s death and, eventually, a second-degree murder charge against Hopkins.

Video evidence from that response shows officers apparently trying to take a firearm from Dallas Shatley’s truck. The video shows a struggle in which Shatley’s truck begins moving with Hopkins hanging on for his life then breaking away, only to have the truck come at him.

Both Hopkins and the department’s chief deputy fired at the driver.

Jim Browning, president of Blue Blood Brotherhood, said he has seen the video, and in his opinion “Hopkins didn’t do anything wrong. This appears to be an instance of an over-zealous prosecutor.”

Another law enforcement officers support group has also reviewed the video and came to the conclusion that Hopkins should be defended. The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund is assisting in his legal expenses.

“No law enforcement officer should ever face criminal charges for doing just what their training and the law expects and allows. Joshua Hopkins now faces a grueling pre-trial period where he frets over his fate and agonizes over how to pay for his defense. His career as a law enforcement professional, and his life, is on hold,” the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund said on its website.

While his legal expenses are being covered, Hopkins has had to struggle with the a loss of an opportunity to earn a living. In most cases, an officer who is facing a criminal charge is placed on administrative leave with pay until the case is resolved.

That didn’t happen in Hopkins’ case.

That’s because he chose to move from Ashe County for a chance at career advancement. With the blessing of the Ashe County sheriff, Hopkins took a job with the Carter County Sheriff’s Department. As part of his application process, a background check was conducted and the Ashe County Sheriff’s Department gave Hopkins a good reference.

After he had been working in Carter County, Hopkins learned he had been indicted in Ashe County on a second-degree murder charge. He was placed on administrative leave without pay by the Carter County Sheriff’s Department, because the charge did not involve the Tennessee department.

Since he no longer worked for the Ashe County department, he did not receive any pay from that organization.

It has now been two years, and because of the indictment, Hopkins has not been able to work as a law enforcement officer. He has lost his house and has struggled with finances.

That’s why Blue Blood Brotherhood has stepped in to host the fundraiser, according to Tuesday Browning, executive administrator for the organization. “We are a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization created by law enforcement to support the families of fallen officers, officers injured on the job, retired officers in need of assistance those suffering from PTSD, and as a way to heal the gap between officers and their communities.”

Tuesday Browning said the fundraiser will be held at Smokey Bones Bar and Fire Grill, 1905 N. Roan St. in Johnson City this Super Bowl Sunday from 6-9 p.m. Those who attend will have the chance to meet with Hopkins.

She said Smokey Bones will donate 10 percent of each meal, excluding alcohol. Browning said diners must present a flyer for the fundraiser in order to get the donation. She said those planning to attend can obtain a flyer from her. She can be reached at 941-628-2606, or by emailing her at Tuesday@BBB4LEO.org.

In addition to enjoying the meal and companionship, Browning said local merchants have also donated merchandise that will be raffled during halftime.

As for Hopkins, his two year-struggle on administrative leave without pay will soon end. His trial is scheduled to begin March 5.

The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund said on its web site “In our estimation, that trial date, March 5, can’t come soon enough to clear this deputy’s name and get him back to the work he loves.”

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