Church robbery stopped in progress

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By Jennifer Caldwell

Plans to burglarize a local church were foiled when LaFollette Police Officers caught the three alleged thieves red handed.

Officers responded to the call of a burglary in progress last Wednesday at Faith Tabernacle Church of God.

Upon arrival Det. Sgt. Jason Henegar, Det. Lt. Monty Miller and Det. David Muse observed two males in the parking lot of the church, which is under construction, carrying walk boards and scaffolds.

Matthew W. Bruce, 21, of 692 Hilltop Drive, and Brandon L. Cook, 21, of 110 Steep Lane, Jackboro, were apprehended by officers in the parking lot.

A third defendant, identified later as James R. Lawson, 23, of 512 West Forrest Street, Apartment B, was also spotted inside the church carrying a walk board, according to LPD records. 

Despite orders to stop, Lawson allegedly dropped the items and ran through the church making an exit through a side door.  

Henegar and Muse pursued Lawson on foot before losing sight of him.

After canvassing the area and speaking to a number of people who had seen Lawson, officers were able to locate him a short time later.

“We spoke with a number of witnesses in the area and the information eventually led us to Lawson’s apartment,” Henegar said.

When officers approached the residence they were initially told by Jessica R. Davis, 21, she and her children were the only ones inside the apartment, records indicate. 

After questioning witnesses in the neighborhood, law enforcement was able to determine Lawson had gone into the apartment that contained only one entrance and exit.

Lawson was arrested after officers discovered him hiding in a bedroom in the home.

A number of items taken from the church were also located in a wooded area nearby, according to Henegar’s report.

Officers Corey Taylor, Daniel Terry and Steven Wallen also assisted in this case.

Bruce and Cook were charged with burglary and theft over $1,000. In addition to the burglary and theft charges, Lawson was also charged with evading arrest. Davis was charged with being an accessory after the fact and false reporting.