Ala. city mayor fires FD chief, calls him 'absolutely irresponsible' after assault arrest

Former Tarrant Fire Chief Jason Rickels was arrested last month on assault and other charges after allegedly pulling a gun on a realtor and photographer at a property he owned


Howard Koplowitz
al.com

Embattled Tarrant Fire Chief Jason Rickels was fired Monday by the city’s mayor, a month after Rickels was arrested in Georgia on assault and other charges after he allegedly pulled a gun on an Atlanta realtor and her photographer at a property he owns there.

“The city of Tarrant considers these actions absolutely irresponsible and reckless,” said Mayor Wayman Newton in a statement Monday announcing Rickels’s termination. “This type of conduct will not be tolerated, and employees that choose to engage in such behavior will be dealt with swiftly and severely.”

Former Tarrant Fire Chief Jason Rickels was fired a month after he was arrested for allegedly pulling a gun on two people at a property he owns.
Former Tarrant Fire Chief Jason Rickels was fired a month after he was arrested for allegedly pulling a gun on two people at a property he owns. (Photo/Fulton County Jail)

Rickels told AL.com that neither the mayor nor anyone else from the city told him he was fired.

“This is kind of news to me. I have not been notified,” he said. “If I’m terminated, I’m hearing it from you.”

Roswell, Georgia police claimed Rickels brandished a gun on the realtor and smashed her photographer’s camera during the March 12 incident, charging the ex-fire chief with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, and second-degree criminal damage to property.

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.

Roswell police officers responded at 3:33 p.m. Friday to a reported disturbance at 185 Spring Drive.

A neighbor summoned police stating there were eight to 10 people outside of the house, which is for sale, and they were “about to fight,” according to the police report. Dispatch advised the responding officer that property was damaged, people were attempting to break into the house and one person had brandished a gun.

When the first officer arrived on the scene, Rickels and his wife, Melody, were there, along with Lee and Boddie. They were standing about 100 feet apart from one another and arguing, according to the report.

The officer said he asked who had a gun and Rickels responded that he did, and then complied with the officer’s request to let him have the 9mmm Ruger.

Lee and Boddie told police that Lee had scheduled a viewing of the home through First Multiple Listing Service, which the officer verified had been scheduled to take place from 3:10 p.m. until 4:10 p.m.

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.

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.’'

Boddie said Rickels grabbed the camera, smashed it on the ground and said, “not here, you’re not.”

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 and his wife told police they were notified by their realtor that Lee wanted to view the home, so Melody Rickels left to go to the grocery store while the viewing took place.

Melody Rickels then saw on her Ring camera that eight to 10 people were going in the house and she interpreted the viewing as a scam and the group’s intent was to burglarize the home because they were bringing bags into the home.

They said they also believed it was a scam because the group did not leave immediately when asked to do so. The officer noted a 10-to-15 minute lapse. Melody called her husband and said she was calling the police because she thought the house was being burglarized.

Rickels told police he approached a vehicle, in which Boddie was sitting, and confronted him about what he was doing at the house. The chief said Boddie grabbed a black object from the car and brought it towards him. Rickels said he feared it was a gun and grabbed it from Boddie. It turned out to be a camera, which was thrown to the ground and shattered.

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.

Both Rickels and Boddie told police they each had been in fear for their life. Nothing was reported missing from the home. Rickels said he believed the group was trespassing on his property.

Rickels was held overnight in the Fulton County Jail before he was released on bond.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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