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Prosecutor to consider presenting Lock assault case to grand jury
 Justin Story  / 

A Simpson County man who accuses Bowling Green attorney Travis Lock of assaulting him has experienced health issues requiring three hospital visits since August, and the special prosecutor is considering whether to present the case to a grand jury.

Lock, 42, is charged with a misdemeanor count of fourth-degree assault in connection with the Nov. 18, 2018, incident with Troy Tims.

On Tuesday, Special Judge Gabe Pendleton continued the jury trial in the case to Feb. 4 in Simpson District Court.

The trial was initially set for Dec. 18, but Special Prosecutor Ryan Rice sought a rescheduling, filing a motion ahead of Tuesday’s pretrial conference to continue the trial, citing a “major decline in (Tims’) physical health” that made it uncertain whether he would be able to testify had the trial taken place as scheduled.

Rice’s filing documented an emergency room visit made by Tims, 41, on Aug. 20 after complaining of severe headaches and vomiting blood, an Oct. 26 medical helicopter transport to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville to be admitted to the intensive care unit and a Nov. 4 emergency room visit due to a sudden onset of blindness, during which Tims was informed he had suffered a stroke.

Rice said in an interview last week that Tims believes his health has worsened as a result of the incident with Lock.

The prosecutor is reviewing Tims’ medical records to decide whether to present the case to a grand jury for a possible felony indictment.

“Mr. Tims is having some serious medical issues, whether that is related to the assault is yet to be seen,” Rice said.

Tims did suffer a stroke before the incident with Lock that left him with weakness on one side of his body.

Tims and his wife, Connie Tims, have sued Lock in Simpson Circuit Court, accusing the attorney of an unprovoked assault of Troy Tims.

According to court records, Tims had driven from his home to North Harris Road after hearing a gunshot and a car horn in the vicinity of land owned by Leon Alexander, who had given Tims permission on previous occasions to hunt on the land.

Tims saw a Ford pickup truck with its headlights off and Lock inside the truck.

Tims claims he left his vehicle to ask who was there and whether they had permission to be there, with Lock responding that he was on his own land, opening the truck door forcefully and causing the side mirror to strike Tims.

“(Lock) exited his vehicle and became more enraged, and proceeded to physically attack and assault (Tims) without warning or provocation,” the lawsuit said. “The force of the assault caused the plaintiff to fall to the ground and the defendant repeatedly struck him violently while stating ‘I am a lawyer, and I do what I want to.’ ”

Troy Tims was treated at The Medical Center at Franklin for injuries that included abrasions to both knees, the left shoulder and right hand, cuts to his left ear and left eye, contusions around the left eye and swelling on his left jaw and the left side of his neck, according to a criminal complaint.

The day after the incident, Troy Tims provided a written statement to the Simpson County Sheriff’s Office documenting his allegations.

Lock disputes Tims’ version of events, saying he had been tending to his own property at the time, and that Tims acted as the aggressor, using his vehicle to block Lock on the road and attempting to enter Lock’s vehicle while he was seated inside.

“Mr. Tims then assaulted me by pushing the door into me forcefully as I tried to exit the vehicle. I defended myself as allowed by Kentucky law, which grants me immunity from criminal prosecution and civil liability,” Lock said in a statement provided last month to the Daily News in which he also called the lawsuit a “complete sham.”

Attorney Thomas Clay is representing Lock in the lawsuit and has filed a counterclaim against Troy and Connie Tims in which he alleges that the Timses “stalked” Lock while he tended to fences on his property, and Troy Tims “aggressively accosted” Lock by yelling for him to identify himself and explain why he was there before going on to commit assault and battery.

The counterclaim accuses Troy Tims of attempting to open Lock’s driver’s side door and then shoving the door into Lock as he attempted to exit the vehicle, pinning Lock’s leg.

Attorney Alan Simpson, who represents the Timses, has filed a motion to pause all activity on the lawsuit until the criminal case is resolved.

Lock is represented in the criminal case by attorney Jason Hays, who filed a motion for a bill of particulars Tuesday in which he requests the court to order Rice to disclose the date he received Tims’ medical records and whether those records were obtained from Simpson, produce all communications between Rice and Tims and any lawyer acting on behalf of Tims, specify when and how Rice became aware of the lawsuit and detail the factual or expert testimony Rice believes he can present to a jury to attribute Tims’ current health condition to last year’s incident.

Hays notes in the motion that the pictures provided to him in the criminal case “do not indicate anything other than the most minor injury.”

“Troy Tims says in his own statement regarding the Nov. 18, 2018, fight that he had suffered from a stroke and continued to suffer from the same ailments that he now complains of in his civil suit against Mr. Lock, only now he blames all of his health problems on Mr. Lock,” Hays said in the filing.

Annual toy drive brings out giving spirit
 Will Whaley  / 

Toys for Tots’ annual Hand it to a Hero drive brought out the giving spirit of some people who passed by the tables and donation boxes at both entrances to Walmart off Campbell Lane.

Military, law enforcement and firefighters from different entities stood waiting for any donations that would come their way and, according to Toys for Tots Coordinator Janel Doyle, there was a lot coming in throughout the day. As of 12:30 p.m. Saturday, the program had received $2,000 in donations.

“Walmart gave us $1,000, so we have had a group of shoppers buying toys with that, and Shop at Home Carpet buys our heroes lunches and they use the remainder of the funds to buy toys,” said Doyle, adding they spent about $750 for toys.

Two of the donors that brought a shopping cart full of toys were 14-year-old Maggie Meister and 10-year-old Claudia Meister.

“We donated toys for ages 0-12 years old and we spent $350 for Toys for Tots,” Maggie said. “This is the first year we started doing this. We’ve always been into Toys for Tots, but we never got into as much as we have this year. We have friends who work with Toys for Tots and we have been working with them in the past to get toys to the kids.

“I think programs like these are a good thing,” Maggie said. “I hope in the future we have more programs like this in the area. There are a lot of families that don’t have high income and they need our support.”

“This program can help other kids that might not live in a good environment,” Claudia said.

Other donations from people like Brian Bunch had significance to him and his family.

“I donated a fire engine because my son is a Marine Corps Reserve, he was at Fort Knox but has moved to Florida and he has also graduated from the Fire Academy in Florida and started at a fire department down there,” Bunch said. “So, I donated a fire engine to sort of honor both his being part of the Marine Corps Reserves and being a firefighter. The holiday season is a hard time for a lot of people and we are blessed we are a little more fortunate, so why not give?”

Some of the law enforcement volunteers present at the drive have been working to bring toys to children in Warren County for a few years.

“This is my third year being out here helping out with Toys for Tots,” said Kevin Harrod, a deputy at the Warren County Regional Jail. “Anytime you can give is a good opportunity. We have unfortunate situations where people can’t do it themselves.”

The military connections Toys for Tots has is another big factor for Harrod.

“We have people over there fighting for us who aren’t here for the holidays so coming here and doing this to give back to families is a great thing to do,” he said.

For other volunteers, it is a chance to interact with the community.

“It is a great opportunity for all of us to come together and bring some awareness to the Toys for Tots event,” Warren County Sheriff Brett Hightower said. “We want to always work on a situation like this where we can get as many resources as we can to those who are underprivileged, and won’t be having Christmas this year. We want every boy and girl to wake up and have something under the tree or something given to them.

“I used to be in the Marine Corps Reserves and I had been somewhat associated with Toys for Tots for a number of years,” Hightower said. “But it has really grown locally for the last 15 to 20 years; it has gained a lot of community support.”

“I have been primarily volunteering with Toys for Tots for the past three years,” Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Matthew Allred said. “It gives me more of an availability to work directly with the community. Being able to help other people that are less fortunate, it is rewarding to see those that are eager to help those who are less fortunate. Even young kids 3 or 4 years old, they are so enthusiastic about it, so being able to contribute, that is really gratifying. It is an excellent program. Not only is everyone in the giving spirit but keeping in mind that others are not as fortunate and trying to help out and let them have a good Christmas as well.”

“It is great because not everyone has an opportunity to enjoy Christmas,” Kentucky State Police Trooper Daniel Priddy said. “Anything we can do to make the community a better place, that is what we’re for is to help people.”

The job is no easy task getting the toys where they need to go and the beginning of the process starts with Susan Harmon, the Toys for Tots phone coordinator.

“I do a sign-up genius for volunteers to answer the phone and we answer Monday through Friday until Dec. 15,” she said. “The volunteers take ticket orders and they are talking to the people who are wanting to get toys for their kids for Christmas.”

There are some requirements in order to receive help from the program.

“They have to live in Warren County, they have to have a birth certificate or have paperwork for foster kids, have a photo ID and then the volunteer takes down how many boys or how many girls they have and then they tell them the ticket number, pick up date and time.”

Harmon has been part of Toys for Tots for 11 years.

“I like to help people,” she said. “I think it is very important for our community to come together and help those who are less fortunate. A lot of the parents are working parents. It is just hard to make it sometimes.”

“This has been worth every effort,” Doyle said. “Because of the local support, our local heroes get to come out and interact with kids and their families and bring in monetary and toy donations that will help our kids in Warren County.”

Neighborhood at heart of debate remains notable for former residents
 Wes Swietek  / 

Angela Townsend still remembers the creaking sound from decades ago at her neighbor’s house. It was the sound of people – black and white – crowding on the wooden porch of Nettie Milliken Cox, who lived at 1038 Kenton St. and was famous for her home cooking.

“She had these secret recipes ... and she cooked everything on this big, black coal stove,” Townsend said.

Cox was just one of the figures once well known in Bowling Green who populated a small African American neighborhood that is now slated for demolition. The area of Kenton Street and Greenwood Alley, bounded roughly by East 10th Avenue and Collett Avenue, was once apparently called Black Alley. But former residents said Greenwood Alley was better known as Fairground Alley and the Kenton Street area was simply called Kenton.

Whatever name they called it, former residents agree on one thing: It was an especially close-knit, peaceful place.

“It was a nice, quiet neighborhood,” said Joyce Gurley, 72.

She lived on Kenton Street from 1953, when her family moved from Tennessee, to about 1969, when she got married.

Ladine Whitlow, 78, lived on Greenwood Alley her entire life until last year. Her extended family occupied most of the homes.

“We were all kin to each other,” she said.

Whitlow lived in one of the larger houses on Greenwood Alley. It was built in 1914 and is among the houses slated for demolition.

Townsend is a direct witness to the eradication of another African American neighborhood in Bowling Green.

She was born in a house in the Jonesville area, which was infamously demolished to make room for an expansion of Western Kentucky University in the 1960s. With the loss of that home, she then lived with her grandmother in a house on Kenton Street, which has also since been torn down.

When she moved there, the Kenton Street house made an impression in that “it was new,” she said. Records indicate that most of the remaining homes on the streets were built in the 1940s.

“I really, really enjoyed it,” said Townsend, who has numerous positive memories of her neighbors. Townsend said she used to rush to the bus stop to meet one favorite neighbor, and the woman “would give me a nickel or a dime or whatever she had.”

Townsend said the area, despite being relatively small, was the home of many notable African Americans, including doctors, lawyers, teachers and pioneering business owners.

The area, however, has been on the path toward demolition for several years, and many of the residents have relocated after the homes were purchased by the current developer.

At the time, they said, they were told that new housing would take the place of the older homes. The current plan is for rental space geared to contractors.

Deborah Anthony, 57, lives on Kenton Street with her family on a home adjacent to the proposed development. She has lived there for 47 years.

“We were under the impression that it would be apartments,” Anthony said. The proposed rental project “won’t help the community.”

She also looks back on the neighborhood as one where “Everyone looked out for each other. I wouldn’t feel comfortable anywhere else. It’s home,” Anthony said. “It’s family.”

Whitlow has been out of her childhood home since last year and moved to Church Street.

“I have never lived across the tracks,” she said, adding that it has been a difficult adjustment.

“I wish it was like it was ... I feel lost,” she said.

While the remaining homes, left vacant except for two in anticipation of their demolition, feature broken windows, crumbling woodwork and obvious neglect, photos from just a few years ago show small but well-kept houses with manicured lawns.

That’s the Kenton Street that Townsend recalls.

Her grandmother, Mildred Carr, was a Tennessee native and became well known in Bowling Green as a cook, seamstress, gardener and storyteller.

Townsend, a retired educator who in 2015 was inducted in the Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame, is a storyteller in her own right. She wrote a book called “Growing up Black in Bowling Green, Ky” and has numerous tales of the once thriving neighborhood she lived in.

“To tear those memories down,” Townsend said, “it’s reprehensible.”

Historic or an eyesore? Plans to demolish longtime African American neighborhood spark debate
 Wes Swietek  / 

Brenda Dunn lives in a house that was built in 1949 on Greenwood Alley in Bowling Green, in what was once a thriving African American neighborhood.

Some see the house – which has seen few significant improvements in recent years – as a historic home worth preservation. Others consider it an eyesore not worth the effort to renovate.

For now, at least, Dunn simply calls it home. But that may soon change, since the house she has rented for two years – along with six other adjacent houses – is slated to be demolished to make way for commercial space for contractors.

A debate about the fate of the homes now involves the local chapter of the NAACP, which issued a statement Friday saying it is “looking into this matter.”

At the Nov. 19 meeting of the Bowling Green City Commission, a rezoning request that would pave the way for the demolition of Dunn’s home and the surrounding houses on Greenwood Alley and Kenton Street sparked a lengthy discussion about historic preservation and affordable housing issues. The request – to change the area from two-family residential to general business – was approved by a 2-1 margin, with Commissioner Dana Beasley-Brown voting against the request and Commissioner Sue Parrigin and Mayor Bruce Wilkerson voting yes.

Just two weeks earlier, though, the commission voted 3-2 against the rezoning in a non-binding vote. Two things changed between the two commission meetings, both involving commissioners who had voted against the rezoning:

On Nov. 19, Commissioner Joe Denning recused himself, citing a conflict of interest because his daughter had spoken against the rezoning at a City-County Planning Commission of Warren County meeting. Additionally, Commissioner Brian “Slim” Nash was absent Nov. 19, since he is serving a four-week suspension after being found to have violated the city’s code of ethics stemming from his arrest in May for public intoxication.

Beasley-Brown said last week that the area “was important to the African American community, and is also important to the community as a whole.” She made a motion at the Nov. 19 meeting to table the rezoning request to allow more public input, but the motion died for lack of a second.

Beasley-Brown said members of the community should help shape such zoning decisions. She also said the city is facing a “crisis” in a lack of affordable housing, and getting rid of any affordable housing stock makes the problem worse.

She said she heard from one former resident of one of the homes in question who was able to walk to get groceries from that house, but now lives in a “food desert.” She said displacing residents can “have a profound impact” on people’s lives.

“It’s not just about the land,” she said.

Parrigin said part of what guided her vote was that “it was a unanimous recommendation from the planning commission. ... They are very conscientious about their job.”

The planning commission considered the rezoning request at its meeting Sept. 19 and voted 8-0 to recommend approval. The city commission has the final say on rezonings within the city limits.

Parrigin said she visited the area before the commission vote and saw “houses not being lived in and in disrepair.”

As for the need for more affordable housing, “we have a deficit in all categories (of housing) ... developers are really working hard to meet the needs in all the sectors,” she said.

The planning commission considers a variety of criteria when deciding on a rezoning request, including whether homes slated to be demolished are historically significant.

All of the houses in question were built in the 1940s, with the exception of a house on Greenwood Alley that was built in 1914.

City-County Planning Commission Executive Director Ben Peterson said his staff report contains such information because “a goal of the (county’s) comprehensive plan is to potentially preserve historic structures.”

The planning commission uses guidelines issued by the federal Department of Interior to determine potential historic significance.

Those guidelines look at whether a structure is 50 years old or older or if it is significant because of an event or person associated with it – for example, “did George Washington sleep there?” Peterson said.

Finally, the guidelines ask if a structure is “an example of architectural significance” that would be lost if demolished, Peterson said.

Of those guidelines, the houses only appear to fit the criteria of being more than 50 years old, although Peterson noted that it could be argued that there is historical significance in that this has been a historically African American neighborhood in the city.

One other such neighborhood, known as Jonesville, was infamously demolished in the 1960s for an expansion of Western Kentucky University. Although lesser known than Shake Rag or Jonesville, the area around Kenton Street and Greenwood Alley was the site of a tight-knit African American community for decades.

When it comes to the affordable housing issue, “at a time when rents are going up, you are taking away some of that affordable housing stock,” Peterson said. But a property owner has to determine “whether the homes are worth rehabilitating. It’s a tough decision ... the decision-makers have to weigh all those angles.”

• • •

Of the seven homes slated for demolition, two are still occupied.

Dunn is 57 and on disability. She said she pays $300 a month to rent her small two-bedroom home, and her main concern is being able to “find another place that I can afford.”

The other remaining resident, Anthony Murrell, 63, has similar concerns.

“It would be hard for me to move,” he said. He is also on disability.

“I don’t get much,” he said, and after paying rent, he barely has enough to pay utilities.

“I live month to month. What am I going to do? The majority of people with money want to get rid of these houses because it’s an eyesore for them,” he said.

Murrell said he wonders why the homes could not be renovated instead of torn down.

But the project developer and property owner, Chris Robertson, said the houses in question “are so old and falling apart, they are not worth saving. Nothing about them is historic. ... They are so dilapidated you can’t remodel them.”

He bought the properties in 2017 and 2018 with an eye on tearing them down for development, perhaps as apartments, but the cost of purchasing the land made building apartments prohibitive.

Warren County Assessor’s Office records show that Robertson’s CSR BG Investments purchased the properties in 2017 and 2018 for between $37,500 and $45,000 each.

The value is in the land in the heart of Bowling Green, not in the small houses on them, he said.

All the houses were occupied when Robertson purchased them, but as tenants moved out, he did not re-rent them in anticipation of their removal.

Robertson said the plan for the land, a little more than one acre, is to build office and storage space for contractors, who will also be able to park work vehicles in attached garages.

He said the project will improve the area and increase the city’s tax base. The development plan calls for the building to have a stone and brick facade with a 6-foot vinyl fence around the perimeter.

Robertson said he is not unsympathetic to a need for more affordable housing. He said he has not given his remaining tenants a deadline to vacate, and with “still a lot to do” on the project, demolition work would probably not start until next summer.

The debate about historical significance does not resonate with Murrell, who spoke unsuccessfully against the rezoning at the September planning commission meeting. Nor does he consider it a contest between himself and local government.

“The city is going to do what it wants to,” he said. “There’s no fighting a battle. The battle I’m fighting is finding a place to live.”