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Year in Review: Public Safety in 2016

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Photo by Dallus Whitfield: Mike Justice, shown here with former Mayor Philip Craighead, was named Lebanon Police Chief in 2016.

The past year saw a change at the top of Lebanon's police force, the resolution of a cold case and a group of citizens standing together in the wake of a national tragedy.

In the City of Lebanon, Mike Justice was named chief of the Lebanon Police Department. Previously, Justice served as interim chief, following the termination of former Chief Scott Bowen in 2014. Justice has over two decades of experience in law enforcement and emergency services.

Bowen, who was terminated by then-Mayor Philip Craighead in December 2014, continued his legal battle against the city this year. The most recent update came in December when Chancellor CK Smith ordered the case be mediated within 90 days. Bowen's counsel, Lannom & Williams Partner Keith Williams, maintains Bowen was fired for being a "whistleblower" about wrongdoing by the city.

On a national level, the country experienced shock and heartache over the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, now known as the worst mass shooting in United States history, on June 12. Citizens gathered at the Lebanon Public Square following the attack to honor the victims.

The deranged gunman, identified as American-born 29-year-old Omar Mateen, carried an assault weapon and a handgun into the club. During the attack, which took a reported 50 lives, including his own life, Mateen called 911 operators to pledge allegiance to terror group ISIS.

Candlelight Vigil coordinator Nick Keel, of Lebanon, said his fiancé and co-coordinator, Zack York, cried upon hearing the horrific news.

"We wanted to do something here so that other people could speak up and speak out," Keel said, noting that a similar incident could easily occur locally. "This affects everybody."

Lawton McNutt, 54, of Kingsport, was indicted in January by a Wilson County Grand Jury and arrested in connection with the 2002 shooting death of James Hill, 82, of Wilson County.

Hill, described by Sheriff Bryan as a "gun and outdoor enthusiast" was found dead in a friend's field on East Saulsbury Road on Nov. 19, 2002. It was determined that Hill, who had been target shooting, had been shot to death.

McNutt has a lengthy criminal record and was already incarcerated in Hickman County on unrelated charges of theft over $10,000 and possession of a weapon from 2015.

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CK Smith, Law enforcement, Lawton McNutt, Lebanon, Mike Justice, Orlando, Philip Craighead, Scott Bowen
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