Police Radio Prankster Endangering Lives - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Police Radio Prankster Endangering Lives

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By Brent Frazier 

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - Police officers are not laughing at a practical jokester whose phantom voice has cropped up at least six different times. 

The department's upper level managers confirm the man is already responsible for getting the wrong person arrested. They fear someone is going to get hurt. 

Derek Hawkins, 25, of Cookeville, was a passenger in a car that was stopped just before 2 a.m. on February 4. Cookeville officers reviewed both Hawkins's and the driver's criminal pasts. 

Cookeville Police admit Hawkins was handcuffed, albeit briefly and detained for no reason. Officers in the field were told via radio that Hawkins was wanted out of Overton County, on a warrant for violating probation. 

"He said ‘no, you're crazy. I've never been in any trouble in Overton County. I don't go to Overton County," said Debbie Lee, Hawkins's mother.

Derek Hawkins died the following day in an unrelated scenario. His mother found him dead on the couch in the early morning hours, and she is currently awaiting autopsy results. 

Meantime, the circumstances that got Hawkins falsely arrested are concerning to Cookeville police. 

"Clearly, this has to be someone who has access to a two-way radio and has our frequency enabled on that device," said Captain Nathan Honeycutt, public information officer for the Cookeville Police Department. 

Honeycutt admitted pinpointing the suspect will be challenging. Dispatchers see nothing identifiable when an officer radios in, and police said tower tracking is useless, since all police radio traffic filters in and out of one central spot. 

He also admitted the person might be in possession of a stolen police radio. 

Honeycutt said difficulty will not stop investigators from pursuing the suspect and criminal charges. He said the man behind the phantom voice is breaking not only state law, but federal law. 

Cookeville police have also implemented a radio reprogramming of base station radios, the department's repeater and mobile and portable radios the officers use in the field. Honeycutt said the roughly $2,000 maintenance should lessen the chance of an unauthorized radio transmission. 

Derek Hawkins's mother wants the prankster caught and arrested. 

"He needs to sit behind the bars to see how funny it really is," said Debbie.

E-mail: bfrazier@newschannel5.com

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