An Alabama fire chief was arrested in Georgia after pulling a gun on a Black real estate agent and her photographer outside a home he owns, AL.com reported earlier this month.
Tarrant Fire Chief Jason Rickels is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, and second-degree criminal damage to property. Police say Rickels pulled a gun on the pair and smashed the photographer’s camera.
The real estate agent, Regina Lee of PalmerHouse Properties, and the photographer, Dwayne Clifford Boddie, owner of Dope Videos unlimited, claimed to Atlanta media they were targeted because they are Black.
Lee had scheduled a viewing of the home, “which the officer verified had been scheduled to take place from 3:10 p.m. until 4:10 p.m.,” according to the report.
The group was setting up to take some photos before Lee’s client arrived at the home.
Lee said she hired Boddie and six other people, including makeup artist Alexis Brown, to take photos of Lee for her marketing portfolio. The police report noted that Lee was wearing a black pantsuit with high-heel shoes and Boddie was dressed in black with a company logo on his shirt.
Rickel’s wife, Melody Rickels, had left the home to go grocery shopping during the scheduled viewing, but when she saw several people — Lee and her team — via their Ring doorbell camera, she believed it was a scam and the group was there to rob them.
Lee said she received a call from the property owner’s realtor about 3:20 p.m. asking her and the others to leave. All of the other contractors had already left, and it was about 3:30 p.m. when Lee, Boddie and Brown prepared to leave.
They said Rickels arrived in an SUV and blocked in Boddie’s vehicle. “Jason (Rickels) asked him, ‘What are you doing?’ to which Dwayne (Boddie) stated he was doing video for a job and showed Jason his camera to prove what he was doing.’’
Rickels took the camera and smashed it on the ground, claiming he believed it was a gun.
Lee, Boddie and Brown said Rickels then pulled his gun. The officer said there were conflicting statements as to when Rickels brandished the weapon. The trio said Rickels threatened to shoot Boddie if he moved.
Rickels’ story about pulling his firearm differed, according to the report.
The chief also told police Boddie and “3 – 6 other (B)lack males approached him aggressively” while he was on the phone with 911. He described the aggression as yelling at him, cussing at him and one person having his hand at his pants’ waistband which he interpreted as him possibly having a weapon.
Rickels told police he then pulled his own gun and said if anyone approached him, he would shoot. He then went behind his vehicle’s passenger side door.
A neighbor told police she saw one of the contractors “pull out a long automatic rifle” from his vehicle. The officer noted that no one else reported seeing that, and the officer believed what the neighbor saw was actually a pole used for lighting in photography.
Nothing was reported missing from the Rickels’ home.
CBS46 reported that police did not buy the Rickels’ story and arrested the fire chief.
“Their testimony was taken into consideration, you know we get two sides of every story, what they were speaking of did not seem to be an appropriate conclusion to have come to based on the totality of the circumstances of what took place that day,” said Officer Tim Lupo of the Roswell Police Department.
Tarrant Mayor Wayman Newton said in a statement: “The City of Tarrant is aware of the current situation surrounding Fire Chief Jason Rickels. The City is taking this very seriously and is looking into any violations of City policy. As per City policy, we will refrain from commenting on any personal issues off personnel in a public forum.”
Atlanta attorney Brian Steel, who is representing Rickels, called the charges against the fire chief outrageous, unfounded, and meritless.
“This is a baseless charge,’’ Steel told AL.com. “The bottom line is we are going to fight this case ethically, lawfully and zealously until the end and Chief Rickels will be exonerated. He has done nothing wrong.”
Image credit: Fulton County Jail