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Questions From San Diego About Downtown Partnership's Bussing Program

Posted: 10:47 PM, Nov 15, 2016
Updated: 2016-11-15 23:53:33-05

The impact of a NewsChannel 5 investigation is being felt all the way in California.

A judge in San Diego has delayed the sentencing of a man who pled guilty to bank robbery because he wants more information about his multiple arrests in Tennessee.
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Samuel Partin, 53, was born in Kentucky and spent most of his life in Tennessee.
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NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered Partin received a free one-way bus ticket from the Nashville Downtown Partnership in 2015.
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Partin was arrested shortly after arriving in San Diego and spent time in prison, but in August police say Partin walked into a San Diego bank with a weapon and demanded money.
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Steven Norat helped police in arrest Partin after the robbery.
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"They described the guy and I just saw him in the bushes," Norat said.
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"He was cowered down in the bushes. He looked like he had mental issues to me. He did not look like a stable human being," Norat said.
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Back in 2014 Partin was homeless in Nashville.
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He was arrested more than 20 times for things like Public Intoxication and the police department listed him as a Chronic Offender.
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But his troubles here stopped when the Downtown Partnership gave him a one way bus ticket to San Diego.
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"We verify they have a place to go whether it's employment or a friend or family," said Tom Turner who is President and CEO of the Nashville Downtown Partnership.
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Our investigation discovered many homeless - often with long criminal records - received one-way bus tickets out of town from the Partnership.
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The Partnership employs a social worker to help with its mission of keeping downtown clean and safe.
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"I'm thinking the Outreach guy made contact with him. He wanted to go and we sent him there," said Turner when asked about Partin.
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The Partnership bought Partin's ticket about a week after he was arrested for trespassing at a downtown business.
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Their only records show Partin went to San Diego because of their Outreach Program.
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NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "The Outreach Program, what are you calling to verify?"
Turner responded, "In this case I don't know."
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The case highlights the questionable verification and lack of records kept by the partnership.
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Victoria Boyd has been homeless for nearly three years and said it is well known the Partnership gives out free tickets from its office near the library.
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She said they don't verify if a person has a place to go.
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"They just ship you out. No they don't verify," Boyd said.
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NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "How do you know?"
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Boyd answered, "Well because a lot of people I've talked to said they don't do that. I asked them about it and they said no."
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Activist Jeannie Alexander is concerned about the motives of the bus ticket program.
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"We really just want to dispense with people that we don't want to look at," Alexander said.
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Some homeless outreach groups have praised the Partnership's Homeward Bound bussing program and said it has helped people who are stranded in Nashville
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In 2015 many of those getting bus tickets were referred by Metro Police.
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Emails show Deputy Police Chief Damian Huggins sent the partnership lists of the most frequently arrested people downtown.
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And when people like Partin left town -- it helped Huggins tout a decrease in the number of crimes.
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NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Turner, "There are a lot of police referrals."
Turner responded, "Sure I mean the police department interacts with people all the time but there are referrals from other groups too."
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Police say they are not part of the program and that officers may tell people about it, but the Partnership runs the program.
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NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "It almost looks like you're bussing our problem to another city. Do you see it that way?"
Turner responded, "I see it as we are helping people who are asking for help."
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Three months after arriving in San Diego Partin was arrested for threatening to kill a man.
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Then this summer police say he robbed the bank in San Diego about a week after getting out of prison.
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"It upsets me very much. It angers me as a citizen, you kind of feel helpless," Norat said.
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He was not happy when he learned how the man he helped arrest got across the country to San Diego
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Now his tax dollars will pay to keep Partin behind bars.
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"I think San Diego should sue Nashville," Norat said.