• Memphis police investigate political dispute between city council candidate and worker

    By: Kirstin Garriss

    Updated:

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Memphis police are trying to sort out an apparent political dispute between a city council candidate and a campaign worker.

    Thurston Smith said he was threatened by one of his workers, but the worker said it was Smith who did the threatening.

    It's a complicated story that could involve criminal charges.

    Three different Memphis Police Department reports explain two stories about what happened at the Dave Wells Community Center Monday afternoon. 

    In one report, city council candidate Thurston Smith said he was blindsided when Anthony Johnson, who worked for his campaign, threatened him.

    "[He] stood up in my face and started yelling at me and threatening me and I said I would be more than willing to have a calm, mature man-to-man conversation," said Smith over the phone. "He didn't want to hear that, so I said ok I'm going to walk away." 

    But Johnson said he was the victim, not the suspect. 

    In these two reports, Johnson along with other witnesses said there was an argument that ended with Smith pulling a gun on Johnson. 

    FOX13 asked Johnson if Smith said anything while the gun was out. 

    "He didn't say anything but at the same time the barrel of the gun was pointed toward me and other workers," said Johnson.

    Johnson said the argument was over money. He said he was hired by Smith's campaign back in January as an early voting coordinator.

    Johnson said he hasn't been paid in months and that's why he approached Smith at the polling location.  

    "It's bad business. I mean if you can't be honest you know in situations how can you be honest with the people in the district," said Smith. 

    FOX13's Kirstin Garriss asked Smith about this contract with Johnson. 

    "If you have a copy of the contract, you ‘ll see there's another party included in the contract and that party was the first person to rescind from the agreement. That initial agreement that we established back in January was between three parties. I played a role, Mr. Johnson played a role and the other member of the party played a role and so that was the catalyst for where we are now," said Smith. 

    FOX13 obtained a copy of that contract which is between Johnson and Darrell Catron of Spartan Strategic Group, LLC. and a former member of Smith's campaign team. 

    At the bottom of the page is Smith's signature dated January 2, 2019. 

    FOX13 called Catron about the contract, and he referred us back to the campaign. A new spokesperson said Catron left the campaign in June – the spokesperson didn't say if Catron was fired or if he quit.  

    "I didn't have an agreement between me and Mr. Johnson. I had an agreement between me, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Catron.

    In a statement to FOX13, Shelby County Election Administrator Linda Philips said quote.

    "We were shocked when this happened. Guns are not allowed inside the polling locations. This has never happened before and we hope it never happens again." 

    When FOX13 asked Smith about the gun mentioned in two different police reports, he didn't answer our question directly and said he would call back. Smith didn't call us back, but his campaign team sent FOX13 this statement:

    "During the course of this campaign Mr. Smith has received several death threats and has been forced to file restraining orders against individuals which have led to warrants being filed against the suspect. 
    Mr. Smith has a concealed carry permit; however, he did not take his firearm into the polling location. After he was approached in an aggressive manner, he did make the aggressor aware that he was in possession of a weapon. Immediately after he entered his car and called the Memphis Police Department and filed a police report. 
    This is a desperate attempt by an impecunious individual to blackmail a lifelong public servant who has stepped up to run for office in an attempt to make his community better. 
    Thurston Smith has served his community as a military reservists, officer in the Shelby County Democratic Party and is a devoted husband. He looks forward to continuing to promote the ideals of his campaign including finding better jobs for District 7, reducing poverty and crime."

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