Hatewatch

DHS Reportedly Investigating Tennessee Weapons Instructor

Editor's Update: The Tennessee Department of Public Safety and Homeland Security Friday suspended the handgun carry permit of James Yeager, who earlier threatened to "start killing people" if gun control advanced, according to WTVF-TV in Nashville. Commissioner Bill Gibbons said Yeager's comments were "irresponsible, dangerous and deserved our immediate attention." Department officials said that they had not certified Yeager or his Tactical Response school as instructors.

The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly investigating threats made this week by a Tennessee businessman — the same private security contractor who was at the center of a controversial shootout while working as a mercenary during the Iraq War.

James Yeager, who owns Tactical Response and Tactical Response Gear Inc., based in Camden, Tenn., said on a YouTube video posted Wednesday that if President Obama uses executive orders to ban assault rifles, “I’m going to start killing people.” Yeager’s firm provides training and equipment to police and military units, as well as the private sector, according to his website.

The video was removed yesterday but in a new one, Yeager said he wasn’t retracting anything, though he did concede that his earlier statements “probably allowed my mouth to overrun my logic.”

Yeager makes several claims about his law enforcement credentials, but two Tennessee sheriffs contacted today by Hatewatch say they believe those claims are exaggerated. Yeager didn’t return calls seeking comment from him about the growing controversy he finds himself in.

Yeager has claimed publicly, including in other YouTube videos, that his illustrious law enforcement career included jobs as a police chief for the town of Big Sandy, Tenn., and, later, as a sheriff’s deputy in Benton County, Tenn.

What he doesn’t say is that he was fired from both those jobs.

“He was let go for various reasons,” Big Sandy city recorder Debbie Wright told Hatewatch today. “He was a little bit more than we need in a police chief.”

Yeager was fired as chief of the two-person police department because, in part, he butted heads with the then-mayor, Wright said. “Well, James had some grandiose ideas. He wanted more patrolmen, more equipment than what our little community of 518 people could afford.”

Yeager also was fired in 2002 after working one year as a deputy in Benton County when Cecil Wells was elected sheriff, the current sheriff, Tony King, told Hatewatch today.

Homeland Security’s interest in Yeager now apparently centers on whether his public death threats constitutes criminal conduct or threats to the president.

“I just got off the phone with the people from Homeland Security, asking me about this guy,” King told Hatewatch. “It appears that there are several agencies looking at the video to see if there’s criminal intent there or it’s just somebody exercising their First Amendment rights.”

King said he’s acquainted with Yeager and his business, “but I don’t know him real well. He’s in the business of what I call training mercenaries, private security,” the Benton County sheriff said of Yeager. “But I’ve got to tell you, he hasn’t caused me any problems at all.”

King said he was shocked by Yeager’s statements. “I’m pro-gun, but I also know we’ve got a problem,” the sheriff told Hatewatch.

The Benton County sheriff said he’s unaware of any sheriff’s or police departments in Tennessee who’ve sent their officers to Tactical Response for training. Years ago, he said, some Benton County deputies in their off-duty time took a first aid course for “first responders.” King said, “I don’t know, quite frankly, what they got out of it. The course was free, and on the deputies' own time.”

Dalya Qualls, the public information officer for the Department of Homeland Security in Nashville, didn’t immediate respond to a request for comment about the agency’s investigation of Yeager.

In McNairy County, Tenn., Sheriff Guy Buck said Yeager “definitely has overstated his law enforcement credentials.” (Talking Points Memo reported yesterday that Yeager claimed to be certified by the Tennesee Department of Public Safety as a firearms instructor, but said that the department said that was untrue.) Before being elected sheriff, Buck worked as a security manager for DynCorp International, a private security contractor hired to train police in Afghanistan.

Buck said Yeager worked as a security contractor for Edinburgh Risk & Security Management in Iraq, functioning as a mercenary hired to protect convoys traveling between the Bagdad Airport and the Green Zone.

“He got involved in a highly controversial shoot-out on the airport road,” the sheriff said of Yeager. “Type in his name and the word ‘coward’ on YouTube and you’ll learn all about him.”

As to Yeager’s threat to kill people, Buck said he was taken aback.

“Obviously it surprises me for anyone who claims to have the background he claims to have to say things like that. Reckless and irresponsible — both those terms seem to me to describe his actions,” the sheriff said.

“I’m the biggest 2nd Amendment advocate in the State of Tennessee,” Buck said, “but we still have to be responsible for our actions and statements.”