MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) - The Rutherford County Sheriff is accused of threatening a small business owner and her workers as part of a property dispute, News4 Investigates has learned.
Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh is named in a police report as a result.
Brandi Johnson, owner of a soon-to-be opened photography/salon studio on Northwest Broad Street, told News4 Investigates that for four months she tried to speak to Fitzhugh, whose family owns a business next door.
Johnson said she not only left repeated messages with his tenant, but also went to the sheriff’s office to speak with him, only to be told he wasn’t available.
Johnson said she had her property surveyed and found that the sign his tenant was using was actually on her property, and she intended to hang her own sign there.
She said she never heard from the sheriff until she hired installers to put up a sign advertising her new business.
“Then he started to get hot and said, ‘You better not touch this sign. You better leave it alone. I’m going to do something to you if you touch it.’ And then he looks at my installers and says, “I’ll have something done to you if you touch this sign,’” Johnson said.
Josh Cope, who was hired by Johnson to hang the sign, confirmed to News4 Investigates that he felt threatened by the sheriff.
“He said, ‘Do not touch the sign anymore, and if you do, I’m going to come after you,’” Cope said.
Cope said he and his co-worker only agreed to return to hang the sign when Murfreesboro Police were called to observe.
Rutherford County Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh (Photo: Rutherford County Sheriff's Office)
When reached by phone, Fitzhugh told News4 Investigates that he did not threaten anyone, and referenced all News4 Investigates’ questions to his attorney, who did not return calls by deadline.
Johnson said she was upset to learn that Murfreesboro Police labeled her complaint as a civil matter.
“I’m going to go back to the police department and ask them to amend it,” she said. “It’s not civil at this point. It’s criminal.”