published Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Whitfield County deputy pawns county guns

A 14-year veteran of the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office could face criminal charges after allegations that he pawned his county-issued weapons for cash.

Authorities said Chris Hammontree, a patrol deputy, is on paid leave while the sheriff's office investigates whether he pawned his rifle and shotgun at American Pawn shop in Dalton, Ga.

Each officer is issued a handgun, rifle and shotgun at the department, said Maj. John Gibson, and the officer is responsible for taking care of the weapons but doesn't own them.

When the sheriff's office pawn unit was checking local shop records, they found Hammontree's name on the list and an internal affairs investigation was opened, Gibson said. Authorities discovered Hammontree had pawned the guns in exchange for a loaned amount of money, but they didn't say how much.

Hammontree could face a charge of theft by conversion for taking somebody else's property for his personal benefit, Gibson said.

The deputy has talked with investigators about what happened, but Gibson said he couldn't say why the weapons were pawned because it's an open investigation.

A telephone number couldn't be found for Hammontree, and he didn't respond to requests for comment on social media.

When the investigation is finished, authorities said, they will take administrative action and the case will be turned over to Conasauga District Attorney Bert Poston to decide whether the officer should be charged. Poston declined to comment Tuesday, saying he hadn't seen the case yet.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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