Vegetation causes problems whether smoked or spoken to


“I have no idea”

You know how it is.

It can be hard to remember everything in the fast-paced world of the 21st century. You’ve got to remember to drop off the kids, all those work meetings, what to get at the grocery store, when it’s time to take your meds, to have that leaky tire checked, to pick up the kids, to call the plumber, what your significant other wants for dinner tonight…. No wonder we each need a freaking computer/communicator on our persons at all times! 

It may not be easy to remember everything that needs doing, but some things are a bit harder to forget than others. For instance, the leaky tire you forgot to get checked? When it finally goes flat, it’s gonna be hard to miss. If you try to drive on it, then you’re going to have to literally do battle with your steering wheel constantly, the noise is going to be positively unholy, and you’ll have to deal with a multitude of other drivers trying desperately to get your attention. It’s safe to say that nobody’s quite stupid or oblivious enough to forget that they’re driving on an utterly flat tire for very long.


 It was just after 6 a.m. on May 30 when Knox County officer Donnie Shipley spotted a 2006 Mazda sedan turn onto East Emory Road from Interstate 75. The car was speeding, but what really attracted Shipley’s attention was the “shower of sparks” coming from the gaping hole where the left front wheel and tire were supposed to be. 

Shipley got behind the car, which “was using both travel lanes and the center turning lane to drive in” and had slowed down to 30 mph. When the officer turned on his blue lights the Mazda suddenly accelerated to 50 mph and tried vainly to shake the officer, the escape thwarted by the fact that it’s really hard to maneuver a car that’s missing a wheel. The car finally stopped near Dry Gap Pike and Shipley came face-to-face with his nemesis: a 5’11”, 270-pound white dude who was all of 20 years old.  More to the point, a 20-year-old guy who was obviously so wasted that he probably believed that he’d just successfully given Darth Vader the slip in the Millennium Falcon

Exactly what the young man was wasted on wasn’t determined. Shipley made no mention of the man smelling like booze and it appears that no alcohol was found at the scene. Incredibly, the only thing the cops found was a small baggie of what appeared to be marijuana. Hard as it may be to believe, this young man had apparently managed to consume enough weed that he couldn’t keep his balance, understand basic instructions or even finish the ensuing field sobriety tests. 

“The suspect stated he had not been drinking, but did smoke marijuana at 0830 this morning. The suspect was asked what time he thought it was to which he responded, ‘I have no idea, 9:00?’ The suspect was unaware the time was 0630, due to his level of intoxication of an unknown substance,” Shipley wrote in the incident report.

The exceptionally mellow young man even agreed to have his blood drawn, but the medics from Rural/Metro eventually gave up trying to get a sample because “the suspect was falling asleep while standing during the blood draw attempt,” Shipley said. The next plan — take the guy to the nearest emergency room so a phlebotomist could have a stab at him — was finally abandoned when he passed out in the back of Shipley’s cruiser, apparently leading everyone involved to say “Screw this” and deliver him without further ado to the county jail. 

 As an aside, the young man’s car had been “driven to the point the left front tire was completely gone and the wheel had been worn down to the brake rotor. The brake rotor was also worn partially away.”

Fate fits freaky floral friend

The 33-year-old man had clearly had enough for the day or, more accurately, night. It was after 4 a.m., after all, and he still had a ways to go before he reached his destination. Yes, sleep was the ticket…. a little slumber, some shuteye, a few ZZZs….sleep, it does the body good, yeah?

It had been a long, strange day, and his memories were a bit vague…He’d started out hours before in Morristown, where he’d been having a fairly deep conversation with a bush. He felt vaguely ashamed that he couldn’t remember the specific shrub he’d been so captivated by, as all bushes looked pretty much the same to him. Azalea? Hydrangea? Rhododendron? It didn’t matter. The important thing was that the bush had told him that he needed to walk to Knoxville, ASAP, and he’d dutifully complied. He might not have understood his mission, but such is always the fate of those charged with fulfilling the errands of sentient flora.

Anyway, at some point in his seemingly endless hike he’d started to feel…. a tingle. Pins and needles. Midway between pain and pleasure, this feeling started at the base of his spine and eventually spread throughout his body until even his hairs were tingling. And then everything went black, and he forgot where he was and knew only that he needed to lay himself down now, and sleep….

At least until he was awakened (not gently) at 4:52 a.m. June 6 on McMillan Road in East Knox County. And we do mean on McMillan Road, as he was lying in the middle of the rural lane, sound asleep on a nonexistent pillow of asphalt when some Knox County officers happened upon him. He didn’t exactly impress the cops, as the following incident report indicates (all spelling and grammatical oddities preserved from the original): “Officers woke the Arrestee up, where he states he was in Morristown. The Arrestee states he was speaking to a bush, which told him to walk towards Knoxville, when his body became tingly and he believes he passed out. The Suspect states he believes he began walking around 2200 Hours on 6/10/2021, and was unaware of the current time. The Arrestee had pinpoint pupils, was saying things that did not make sense, and could not stand without assistance. The Arrestee was taken into custody and transported to the Detention Facility.”

We can only hope the quest placed on his shoulders by the mysterious bush wasn’t too important, especially as it was quite possibly sentient, time traveling bush. Of course, there’s also the possibility that our subject didn’t start talking to the bush until he’d smoked part it, probably with a buddy who drives a Mazda sedan with a leaky tire.

Going commando 

Speaking of quests, secret missions and the like, it’s a good bet that none of the cops who responded to a West Knoxville motel on June 3 were expecting to encounter a shadowy commando patrolling the grounds.

Things might have gone a lot smoother, of course, had the aforementioned commando cleared his activities with the motel’s management first. It would have been ever better had the man been a real commando instead of an inebriated, pistol-packing nobody dressed in an all-black outfit roaming the halls and scaring the crap out of the other guests. 

Officers were dispatched to the Days Inn on Parkwest Boulevard just after midnight on June 3 to check out multiple reports of “a male in all black waving a handgun around on the second floor,” the ensuing incident report stated. It apparently didn’t take the cops very long to find the guy on the “back side of the hotel, dressed in all black” and take him into custody.

“When officers made contact …. he was clearly intoxicated and very unsteady on his feet,” according to the report. “(He) had the smell of alcohol on his breath and couldn’t understand basic officer commands. While officers were conducting a pat down, a small silver RG handgun was found in his waist band.”

The officers were, curiously, unable to find any of the complainants who had allegedly witnessed his earlier behavior but they nonetheless felt they had plenty of reason to charge him with public intoxication.

There were still questions that needed to be answered, of course. Questions that their prisoner, age 42, refused to answer. He also refused to cooperate in any other way. Was he part of some LARP gone wrong? Or was something more sinister afoot? Was he in fact some kind of Ninja-Gun Kata-commando, and if so what kind of mission could he be executing on a summer night in West Knoxville? Most important of all, was he under the command of a bush and, if so, what species was it?

Tales of the Scruffy City is compiled from public records provided on request by the Knoxville Police Department, Knox County Sheriff’s Office, and other government agencies. We do not identify the citizens who appear in these reports in order to protect their privacy. Many of those who appear in police reports are guilty of nothing more than having a bad day, while even those who are formally accused of a crime are innocent until proven guilty. Tales of the Scruffy City is Copyright 2021 by Hard Knox Wire.

J.J. Stambaugh may be reached at 

Published on July 8, 2021