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Trailer incident involving acting police chief prompts city council questions

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Councilwoman Kecia Copeland poses a question about an incident involving a man who located his stolen trailer at Lowe’s while it was being used by acting police chief Capt. McKenzie Mattingly.

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016, 11:55 p.m. — The owner of a stolen 5 x 14-foot utility trailer probably didn’t expect to find it weeks later in the Lowe’s parking lot connected to an SUV operated by Bardstown’s acting police chief, Capt. McKenzie Mattingly.

The man got his trailer back the following day, but the incident has generated trailermaijnrumors that have been circulating in the community — which prompted questions about the incident at Tuesday night’s Bardstown City Council meeting.

“I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls about this, and people wanting some answers about this because it was one of our people,” Councilwoman Kecia Copeland told the council.

She asked Councilman Bill Buckman — a former Bardstown Police officer and a member of the city council safety committee — about the methods the police department uses to keep an inventory of items that are recovered or found.

At first Buckman said the matter would be discussed at Wednesday’s safety committee meeting.

Copeland explained the incident in general terms, and though she didn’t mention Mattingly by name, there was no question Buckman knew of the incident.

“It’s an administrative thing,” he said. “It was not reported stolen, so it was found property. It doesn’t fall in the classification of stolen property because it wasn’t stolen at the time.”

The owner identified the trailer when he saw it at Lowe’s, Buckman explained. “He had not reported it stolen, and he was glad that we found it.”

“But the trailer was being towed by a task force vehicle,” Copeland said, referring to the Greater Hardin County Narcotics Task Force.

“He was using the trailer,” Buckman said. “It wasn’t city property.”

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City Attorney Tim Butler suggested the trailer incident should be discussed by the city council’s safety committee.

City Attorney Tim Butler suggested additional discussion about the incident should be referred to council Safety Committee meeting set for 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12.

“I would hate that we might pre-decide something that was going to go to the committee,” Butler said. The committee can discuss the matter and report back to the council.

Mayor John Royalty added there was additional information the council wasn’t privy to; he suggested the council stick to the meeting agenda.

“This is city business, its not open to debate on this issue right here,” he said.

“At least not yet,” Butler added.

OWNERS’ 911 CALL. According to the 911 recording obtained via open records request, it was Sept. 19, 2016, when the owner of the trailer called Nelson County Dispatch at 7:38 p.m. to report finding his trailer.

The trailer was hooked to a gray Ford Explorer in Lowe’s parking lot in Bardstown. While the dispatcher was entering information in the computer, the 911 recording picks up the man saying, “That’s McKenzie … that’s McKenzie Mattingly.”

The recording captures the two men exchange greetings. “Hey, where’d you get this at?” the man asks Mattingly, referring to the trailer.

“I got it at the police department,” Mattingly said. “Yours been stolen?”

“Yes! I swear to God!” the man said. He then points out several unique identifiers to confirm the trailer is his, which was stolen from his yard.

The dispatcher asks the man to let her speak to Mattingly, who advises the dispatcher he believed the trailer was recovered from a house along with a lot of other stolen property. The trailer’s owner was never located, though one person had come to look at it.

“It’s attached to the task force Explorer,” Mattingly tells the dispatcher. “I’m towing it right now.”

The dispatcher wasn’t aware that Mattingly was operating the vehicle with the trailer. Mattingly explained that he will get the owner’s information and have him return the next day to get the trailer.

“We’ll get it all sorted out,” he said. “It’s not going anywhere, I got it.”

A supplemental report dated Sept. 21, 2016 by Officer Derek Sidebottom explains the trailer’s recovery, but the report does not mention the trailer was being used by Mattingly and was being towed with a task force vehicle at the time the owner found it.

A witness statement filed by the owner states that while calling 911 to get an officer’s assistance, he realized it was Mattingly — who he knew personally — was using the trailer.

RECOVERED TRAILER WAS “BELIEVED TO BE STOLEN.” According to police department documents, the man’s trailer was recovered as part of an investigation into a theft of lawn mowing equipment from J&G Equipment, 962 Bloomfield Rd.

According to police reports obtained via an open records request, Bardstown Police responded at 9:28 a.m. Aug. 16, 2016, to the area of 800 Pennebaker Ave., for the theft of lawn mowing equipment. Officers found two trailers and a Scag Patriot 61-inch zero-turn mower parked at that address.

After reviewing security video, investigators determined that sometime around midnight, Aug. 15, an unidentified man driving a Chevrolet extended cab pickup truck and trailer parked his truck at Hands On Auto Detailing. The man then walked over to J&G Equipment and started the mower and attempted to load it on the trailer. However, the mower was too big to go on the trailer.

The man unhooked the trailer and left the area in the truck; he later returned with a larger trailer. The man then unhooked the second trailer, leaving both trailers and the mower behind.

Police determined one of the trailers belonged to American Tire. The second trailer — the one the owner found in the Lowe’s parking lot — lacked a registration, serial number or other identifier, and police were unable to locate an owner.

According to Sidebottom’s report about the mower theft, the unidentified trailer was “believed to have been stolen as well.” It was taken to the Bardstown Police Department where it apparently remained until it was spotted at Lowes on Sept. 19.

NEXT UP. The next meeting of the city council safety committee — which oversees city police and fire department issues — is 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016. The meeting is a special-called meeting, which limits the committee to discussing only the items on the published meeting agenda.

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