Witness: Police Ignored Leads About Deputy's Death
Dickson County Sheriff's Deputy Keith Bellar
Dickson Police Chief Rick Chandler
By Phil Williams Chief Investigative Reporter
DICKSON, Tenn. -- Did investigators cover up the involvement of other officers in the shooting death of Dickson County Sheriff's Deputy Keith Bellar?
Dickson's police chief says no.
Still, NewsChannel 5 Investigates has now uncovered evidence that police may have missed a chance to get to the bottom of allegations coming from the deputy's widow.
As a result, Dickson County Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe has joined Dickson Police Chief Rick Chandler's call for an independent investigation. That decision now rests with District Attorney General Dan Alsobrooks, who could ask for a special prosecutor to review the case.
All of this followed a Facebook post by Brandi Bellar back in August that first raised questions about the investigation into his murder by a mentally disturbed Dickson County man.
She later contacted NewsChannel 5.
"I know, I finally know," she wrote. "It took a year for people to finally come forward, and I feel completely blindsided. I know how you bullied him. I know about the coverup afterwards."
She posted the message after hearing from other officers that the shooter, Jayson Eggenberg, had been the victim of taunting text messages from two cops, claiming that they were having sex with his wife.
It's an allegation that, Brandi believes, authorities there have tried to cover up.
"I think that they are afraid of the community finding out that the prevention of a shooting and investigation of a shooting wasn't done because of small-town politics," she told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
Dickson Police Chief Rick Chandler said that, after Bellar's shooting, he never realized there was any controversy over his department's investigation until someone told him about Brandi's Facebook post.
"I had absolutely no knowledge of any kind of threatening texts," Chandler said.
"Would your department have had any reason to want to cover this up?" we asked.
"No," he insisted. "I knew Keith. I knew him, and it was a terrible situation that happened. And if there was officers actually sending taunting texts or threatening texts, they don't need to wear a badge."
The shooting occurred after Eggenberg rammed a car driven by his wife, a dispatcher for the Dickson Police Department. When Deputy Bellar pulled up to the scene, Eggenberg opened fire, shooting him in the head.
Authorities made a decision not to call in the TBI to investigate.
"By looking at the facts, by looking at the circumstances, the DA's office made the decision to go ahead and let us investigate," Chandler explained.
"So it was not your idea to investigate?" we asked.
"No, it was the DA's office."
Chief Chandler says his detectives did check out Jayson Eggenberg's own Facebook page, just like NewsChannel 5 did.
There are posts suggesting he thought his wife was cheating with other officers, followed by a later post saying he knew she had never been unfaithful or cheated - but no mention of being bullied by anyone.
"The day of the shooting, or it may have been the day after the shooting, the detective that actually worked the case actually went through Mr. Eggenberg's phone -- and I was back there part of the time he was going through it," Chandler said.
"There was nothing on there."
Still, Brandi Bellar is suspicious about investigators' motives.
"Even people are not my sources are getting phone calls to see whether or not they are the ones telling me," she said. "And that's the sad part they are more worried about finding out who's telling me the truth versus what the truth is."
Chandler said that he's just trying to find out if those officers have any real proof - or if it's all just rumor.
"My thing is if officers had knowledge of that, they hindered an investigation by not coming forth at that time," he said. "If they had information, we would have looked at it. We would have subpoenaed his phone records."
But our NewsChannel 5 investigation uncovered questions about whether Dickson detectives might have been told a long time ago that Eggenberg was being taunted by some cops -- and simply chose to ignore it.
After Brandi Bellar reached out to Jayson Eggenberg's family, his brother Jackie Coker confirmed the story she'd been hearing from other officers.
Coker told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that he told a Dickson detective about the text messages on the day of the shooting.
"I told him that he had been receiving taunts -- and [the detective said] it wasn't against the law," Coker recalled.
"And there's no doubt in your mind that you told him that day?" we asked.
"No doubt," he said emphatically.
But that detective told the chief a different story.
"I talked to him," Chandler said. "He says he did not meet with them, he did not talk to them."
Still, the brother insisted he had a witness, who confirmed to NewsChannel 5 Investigates that they did indeed meet with a detective that day.
We asked Coker, "If the detective says he never talked to you?"
"I would say he's a liar," he replied.
We noted to the chief, "Somebody's not telling the truth."
"Either that or somebody's getting things just confused," Chandler said.
Is it possible that they did tell this to that detective and it was swept under the rug?
"No, I don't believe so," Chandler said.
It's an answer that Brandi herself just cannot believe.
"You have a witness, going to a detective to tell him about these events -- and they don't care," she said.
When we noted that "it seems like somebody is going to have to take a polygraph," Brandi immediately jumped in.
"Amen!" she declared.
Asked if he would be willing to take a polygraph, Coker answered, "Absolutely. No doubt."
Chandler, to his credit, did ask the DA to bring in the TBI to review his department's investigation.
But the DA had initially declined.
Just minutes before the story aired, Sheriff Bledsoe issued a statement throwing his support behind an "outside investigation into the concerns surrounding this tragedy."
The statement doesn't say what form that would take.
"The death of Deputy Keith Bellar is a traumatic event and an extremely emotional experience, felt not only by his family, but by the members of the Dickson County Sheriff's Office and members of our community," the statement continued.
"If there are facts, evidence or anything that will support or reveal the truth, I welcome it."