published Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Nine officers injured in Franklin County, Tenn., meth fire

A meth lab fire Sunday night in Franklin County, Tenn., injured nine officers who responded to an Estill Springs campground to investigate reported domestic violence and a possible meth operation.

Today, eight of the nine officers are back on duty and the man who allegedly started the fire, 46-year-old Sherman Hargrove, of Decherd Estill Road, is behind bars on $250,000 bond. He faces charges of domestic violence assault, resisting arrest and nine counts of aggravated assault, Franklin County Sheriff Tim Fuller said.

Sunday evening, Hargrove's wife, Mindy, 29, left their trailer at All Seasons Campground to tell officers at the Estill Springs Police Department that her husband had been assaulting her throughout the day, had chemicals for methamphetamine production and was operating a meth lab, Fuller said. She also told police Sherman Hargrove meant to harm anyone who came to the trailer.

Franklin County deputies got to the campground at about 8:30 p.m. CST, set up a perimeter around the trailer and tried to make contact with Hargrove. Failing that, officers tried to get through the door, Fuller said.

"This guy had intentions of either forcing them to kill him or killing himself, just going by the nature of what happened," the sheriff said. "He went so far as to turn the propane on inside the trailer. We're just fortunate; very, very fortunate."

Before officers could get inside, Hargrove "ignited the front door of the residence and, whenever he did, the deputies tried to back off of [the porch]," Fuller said.

"We were able to get it put out with a fire extinguisher, thank God."

Officers then started trying to get the flammable chemicals out of trailer before they caused an explosion.

"The chemical exposure to all of them was a big concern," Fuller said.

One deputy who was at the front door of the trailer backed away from the door when the fire started and fell from the front porch, injuring his knee, the sheriff said. That deputy's hands also were burned.

Hargrove, meanwhile, tried to escape through a bedroom window but was captured.

While Estill Springs firefighters took care of the fire, the nine officers were taken to Southern Tennessee Medical Center for treatment, according to sheriff's office spokesman Sgt. Chris Guess.

All the officers were treated and released "with some follow-up treatment and medical procedures expected," Guess said.

Fuller said all the officers have returned to duty except Capt. Mike Bell, who had the knee injury and burns to his hands. He will require surgery to repair the knee. Chuck Stines is taking breathing treatments but is able to work, Fuller said.

Hargrove has a criminal record that includes four parole violations, felony convictions for burglary, felony theft and forgery. He also had an active warrant from Lincoln County for a theft charge, officials said. He has a court date in Franklin County General Sessions Court and faces more charges stemming from the meth evidence found, Fuller said.

All Seasons Campground owner Lester Stephens said Hargrove and anyone else bent on illegal activities are not welcome at his campground.

"I don't put up with that stuff around here," Stephens said. "I'll send them on down the road."

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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