Two TJC Campus Police officers have resigned after officials say they ignored orders from their direct supervisor.
According to records obtained by the Apache Pow Wow through the Freedom of Information Act, Monty Ward and Joshua Lowry, former TJC Campus Police officers, responded to a fight with shots fired at the Varsity Place Apartments, located at 3400 Varsity Drive, at 8:10 p.m. on Nov. 19, 2013. According to several reports, the fight was part of an ongoing incident that started between TJC students on campus earlier in the day.
Officer Ward told his superiors he had received phone calls from multiple TJC student residents who lived at the Varsity Place Apartments that a large fight was starting on the property. Ward is a resident of Varsity Place and was a security guard for the complex. Officer Ward relayed that information to Tyler Police who were now receiving calls on the incident. Minutes later, Tyler P.D. sent officers to Varsity Place to respond to a large fight in progress with shots fired.
Officer Ward radioed in to his on-duty supervisor, TJC Campus Police Sgt. Mark Pierce, to request a property check that would have allowed him to assist Tyler P.D. However, Sgt. Pierce told all officers on duty to remain on campus and to meet with him for further instructions, according to multiple reports from other officers according to the investigation by Chief Randy Melton and Executive Director of Public Safety Dr. Thomas Johnson.
Sgt. Pierce was attempting to instruct his officers to do a directed patrol in order to safeguard the campus in case any of the students involved came back to TJC. Officer Ward said he never heard that order and then called in on the radio that he was en route to Varsity Place. He responded with lights and sirens to the scene at the apartment complex. Officer Lowry heard that Ward was en route and followed to back him up, leaving only one officer on campus. Sgt. B.J. Williams was on the west campus and monitoring radio traffic and reported that he never heard Ward say he was en route to the scene.
According to the reports filed by Lowry and Ward, when the two officers arrived at Varsity Place they found the roughly 40 people fleeing the scene, and only one UT-Tyler unit on-scene. Ward and Lowry said they looked around for injured people, as Tyler PD began to show up on the scene. The officers said they then returned to campus.
According to TJC officials, the officers’ actions that night violated the TJC Campus Police Policy Manual.
“Officers Josh Lowry and Monty Ward have been suspended without pay until completion of an investigation concerning their response to a report of a fight off campus Tuesday night. The Tyler PD worked the alleged fight investigation. TJC police were not requested. The officers allegedly left their jurisdiction without cause,” said Fred Peters, director of public affairs and grant development in a statement given to The Apache Pow Wow on Nov. 23.
Chief Randy Melton’s investigation into the incident began by requesting a statement from both officers about the events. Both Lowry and Ward declined to comply with the request until they sought legal counsel.
The investigation report from Chief Melton found the two officers in violation of several rules stated in the Code of Conduct, including ignoring lawful orders from a superior officer and responding with red lights and siren.
This is not the first time Officer Lowry has had issues with the Code of Conduct, according to records.
According to TJC officials in November 2011, he received disciplinary action for unnecessarily drawing and displaying his taser on several occasions. He was given a one-day suspension without pay and placed on 90-day probationary status.
In December 2012, he failed to correct a report when a superior officer asked him to.
Officer Lowry had reported late to work multiple times in December 2012, even failing to show up for work at all on Nov. 13, 2012.
On Dec.7, 2012 there was a citizen’s complaint filed against Lowry concerning rudeness. There were several independent witnesses, including TJC employees. He was given a final notice that his performance on the job was not acceptable. He was given a five-day suspension, placed on a 180-day probation period, required to take an anger management class, and required to meet with a supervisor every week for a six-month period.
“It is my recommendation that serious disciplinary action be taken against both Ward and Lowry,” Chief Melton concluded.
The most recent incident at Varsity Place was the last one for Lowry, and concluded with his resignation on Dec. 4, 2013. Monty Ward resigned one week later on Dec. 11, 2013.
Campus P.D. has declined to comment on the matter, and the two officers could not be reached for comment.