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A Nashville man was arrested Tuesday after officials say he entered Coffee County Middle School during school hours with intent to steal items from the school.
Tarice Lamont Smith, 39, of Nashville, was arrested by Manchester police officers at a Greyhound bus stop on Woodbury Highway after school officials say he entered Coffee County Middle School, 865 McMinnville Hwy., and entered approximately four unoccupied classrooms.
“We believe he had intent to steal but he wasn’t there to hurt or harm anyone,” said Coffee County Middle School resource officer Laura Nettles.
According to school officials, Smith entered the middle school through a rear entrance at approximately 12:15 p.m. and was later approached by teachers in the hallway. Smith allegedly told teachers he was there to register his son for school and they escorted him to the front office. There he told school officials he needed to register a fifth-grade student for classes.
“They told him he needed to register a fifth grader at an elementary school,” explained Nettles.
Smith then exited the building and left in a silver sedan driven by a black male. Nettles contacted the Manchester Police Department to watch surveillance video of Smith’s actions inside the building.
“[On surveillance] video we observed him come through a rear door and enter some unoccupied classrooms,” said Nettles.
According to Manchester Police Department Assistant Chief Adam Floied, MPD officer Tyler Hickerson took a still photo of Smith from the surveillance video and the Manchester Police Department posted the photo on Facebook to solicit help from Manchester citizens.
“Officer Nettles contacted one of our officers and he watched the video with her,” explained Floied. “[Hickerson] came back to headquarters with a screen shot and shared the information with our investigators and they felt like it needed to be passed along immediately. We put it on Facebook and within five minutes we had a phone call saying the subject was at the bus stop and within 10 minutes he was in custody. It was very important to get this individual off the street. He has a very lengthy record.”
According to records obtained by the Manchester Times, Smith has a lengthy criminal record for theft of property, burglary and forgery dating back to 1992. He has nine counts of theft of property on his record, two of which include theft between $10,000-60,000, two counts of burglary, two counts of forgery and one count of escape.
Nettles said schools should be aware of individuals entering buildings without checking into the main office and praised the teachers at Coffee County Middle School for approaching the subject quickly.
“We urge schools to make sure they are aware of people entering the building without checking into the office, which is required,” said Nettles.
Floied said Manchester police officers conduct safety walk-throughs at schools inside the city limits “every day.”
Coffee County Director of Schools Dr. LaDonna McFall said the rear doors were open because several students attend classes outside of the school building.
“Student safety is our primary concern,” explained McFall. “However, our buildings are not setup in a way that is conducive to every precaution that can possibly be taken. This will be solved with a new middle school. Basically, we will be out of those portables and have a better facility with better functioning doors.”
McFall added that more secure measures have been put into place at each school since last year’s deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
“We do have secure entrances at our elementary schools and going into place at our middle school. We are in the process of putting the electronics in for secure entry. We take every precaution we possibly can. Can we eliminate every single thing … we would like to but no we can’t.”
Nettles filed charges of burglary against Smith and he is being held in the Coffee County Jail on $25,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court Monday, Nov. 4.