August 29, 2018 10:34:04 AM
Alex Holloway - [email protected]
Starkville Police Chief Frank Nichols has been suspended after hitting his brother at McKee Park on Saturday, according to records The Dispatch obtained through a public records request.
According to a Starkville Police Department incident report, which lists the incident as a simple assault, Nichols' brother, Craig, called police to report that he'd been assaulted. When officers responded, Craig Nichols was receiving treatment for an eye injury with "ice wrapped in a paper towel covering his left eye."
Craig reported being at McKee Park at about 7:15 p.m. Saturday with friends and family, when he told Frank Nichols he wanted to go home. Frank said that Reynolds, who is later identified in the report as Frank Nichols' son, would take him home.
Craig reportedly declined, saying Reynolds drives too fast for him. The report says a few more words were exchanged between the brothers before Craig Nichols went to stand by his truck. Craig Nichols claimed that was when Frank "came up from behind and struck him in the face."
The report further notes that Craig "appeared to be intoxicated and had the smell of an intoxicating beverage coming from his presence." It says Craig's eye was swollen shut with "dried blood in and around his nose."
According to the report, Frank confirmed that he and Craig were in the park. The police chief also admitted to hitting his brother.
Craig loaded his belongings onto his truck as if preparing to leave, Frank said in the report. While doing that, Craig began "messing" with the generator, and Frank asked him to leave it alone because it didn't belong to him.
The police chief's statement said Craig started picking at Reynolds. Others at the gathering stepped between the two when Craig started approaching Frank, according to the report. They exchanged words again and Frank said he hit his brother in the face when Craig "started toward him aggressively again."
The report notes that Reynolds "is unable to defend himself against Mr. Craig Nichols."
According to the report, witness statements from Milton Smith, Reynolds Nichols and Oliver Sudduth align with Frank's telling of the events.
Craig was taken to the University of Mississippi Medical Center after the incident. According to an official with that hospital, he has since been treated and released.
Starkville aldermen voted to suspend Frank Nichols for two weeks without pay during a special-call meeting on Monday. He's also been placed on probation for six months.
City Municipal Court Clerk Sholanda Sykes said there are currently no pending court dates related to Saturday's incident. SPD Public Information Officer Brandon Lovelady declined to comment when asked about whether the department is conducting an active criminal investigation into the matter.
Several elected officials on Tuesday said the effect Saturday's incident has on the police chief's prospects with the city, long-term, is largely in Frank's hands.
Mayor Lynn Spruill said the situation was "incredibly unfortunate." However, she said she expects Chief Nichols to see the gravity of the situation and respond fittingly.
"How he wishes to handle this going forward is going to be entirely up to him," she said. "All opportunities to learn or modify how we deal with things are on us. I fully expect him to be the leader he clearly has the ability to be."
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, likewise, said any future actions from the board depend on the chief's future behavior.
Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver was not at Monday's special-call meeting but said he was aware of the details of Nichols' situation.
"I'm not too concerned at this point," he said. "I'm sure we'll have further discussion and see where this goes from here. I think it was a pretty appropriate board action taken (Monday)."
Ward 3 Alderman David Little, Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker, Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins declined to comment, citing the issue as a personnel matter. Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn did not respond to calls for comment.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.