Family alleges Maury County Commissioner threatened them

Crime Tracker

MAURY COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – A woman at a Maury County shooting range claims a county commissioner threatened her and her family.

This alleged incident happened at around 5 p.m. Saturday evening at the Yanahli shooting range. It was at this Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency property where a family was finishing shooting for the day, right around sunset. They say as they were packing up to leave at night fall, they heard honking and yelling in the parking lot. When they got to their vehicle, they were confronted by a woman later identified as Maury County Commissioner Debbie Turner.

Heather Lambert told News 2 she, her 14-year-old daughter and her fiancée arrived at the TWRA shooting facility at around 4:30 p.m.

“The website says they are open until 7 p.m., but who is going to stay and shoot guns in the dark? As we are packing up, we hear honking from the parking lot, and we hear this through our ear protection we are wearing,” Lambert said. “And we hear screaming that the police are being called, so we continue to pack up and head to the parking area, and there is a vehicle there with the headlights on so we couldn’t really see anything. That’s when about five feet from the gate, the obscenities started, and implication of what my intelligence level was and we don’t belong there and she is calling the police. I have no clue who this woman is. Well, words were exchanged, and that’s when she decided to take matters into her own hands, and reverse her vehicle, aiming it at my family and slowly lurching it towards us. That’s when I contacted officials, made the call and found out who this woman was; Debbie Turner. She informed me that she is County Commissioner of District 8.”

Despite the scary encounter, it is still unclear what Turner was agitated about.

“She was adamant we were somewhere we did not belong. We talked to the TWRA about the discrepancy on the website and the true hours. We have a record, GPS on our phones, and it shows when we got there and when we walked back to our cars, and the phone call to the police was made about 5:25 p.m. That was after words were exchanged; we were trying to leave,” Lambert recalled.

Lambert also said Turner threatened to kill her and her family.

“She was in her vehicle, aimed at us, at the back of our vehicle as we were loading up, and she is lurching closer and closer to us until she was about three feet from us,” Lamber said.

She also claimed Turner yelled “I’ll f***ing kill you!” at her. This prompted a call to police.

“I was on the call with 911 and said, ‘I am on the phone with police,’ and she says, ‘Tell them who you are talking to. I am Debbie F***ing Turner, the f***ing county commissioner of District f***ing 8.’ I don’t know if her business cards says that or not,” Lambert said.

During the whole ordeal, Lambert felt imprisoned since she couldn’t leave the facility.

“When she was backed up to our vehicle, yes, I felt like I couldn’t leave. And once I was on with police, they said, ‘Get in your car and lock the doors and someone is on the way,’ And we locked the doors, and that is when she backed away but now I want people to know what happened. This is not acceptable for a public figure to behave this way in front of a child, or anyone at all,” she said.

To Turner, Lambert says: “I don’t know what we did to upset you. I hope you find peace someway. I’m positive if she heard shots, they were before sunset.”

The TWRA says it is investigating, telling News 2 nobody in Lambert’s party had a permit to shoot at the range.

“We decided to go back and get our permits on a regular basis,” Lambert said.

Debbie Turner spoke by phone to News 2 and sent an email explaining her position.

First parts of the phone conversation:

“Saturday there was an incident, but I certainly was not blocking anyone in. I’m sure this will end up a they said, she said situation. I didn’t call 911, but they did when I said the county was on the way. I always call the sheriff’s department and I had to call the night before, too. They heard the gunshots at darkness when I was on the phone with them. The TWRA doesn’t care,” Turner said.

She continued, “I didn’t have a weapon and I never got out of my car. It was three of them with high powered rifles. When I had to call the second time cause of their threats, the deputy said officers are on the way. I told the deputy I would block them in. She said I could not do that, so I didn’t. I was at least 25 feet from their vehicle at any point in time, and they could’ve left any time they wanted to. I was waiting on the officers regardless, especially after the dry run the night before.”

Turner also denied all accusations that she threatened to kill Lambert and her family and said she did not block them in with her vehicle.

“I knew this would be a they said she said. I was parked in front of the sign. I was not even near their car. And yeah, when the county deputy, I had the deputy on the line, I said, ‘Can I block them in? They said, ‘No,’ and I didn’t. When they arrived, I was parked where I had been parked, parallel away from their car. They could have left any time they wanted to,” Turner said.

Though Turner denies blocking the family with her vehicle, the Maury County Sheriff’s report says:

“The complainant, Deborah Turner, reported that someone was shooting past the hours that the range was open. The call was received at 17:18 and the range closes at 17:00 per TWRA Agent Goatz who was also notified. The complainant informed dispatch that she was blocking the vehicle that was parked at the range to prevent her them from leaving. The complainant had called the day prior, but when we arrived no one was still here. Dispatch told the complainant not to attempt to detain whoever was there at my request. The complainant told them that she did care and was going to fight fight back in her way. The complainant made contact with the subjects who were at the range and a verbal argument ensured. As dispatch was relaying the information to me I could hear yelling the background.”

The report concludes: “The complainant denied that she had ever threatened the victims or moved her vehicle. She said that they had threatened her, but never clarified as to how. She then began to explain to me that she would be in touch with the state representative or someone higher up with the TWRA.”

At this point, the Maury County sheriff’s department’s investigation is closed. Both parties have been advised if they want to pursue criminal charges they should see the magistrate.

Below is Turner’s full response via email:

“Yeah sir, there was an incident but I certainly wasn’t blocking anybody in. I’m pretty sure this will end up a they said/she said situation.

“I didn’t call 911, but they did when I told them the county was on the way. You can never reach TWRA, so I always have to call the Sherrif’s Dept and press number 7 to reach a deputy. I had to call the night before too and they heard the gunfire at darkness while I was on the phone with them. Of course by the time the county gets here the violators are already gone. Taxpayer money wasted b/c TWRA simply doesn’t care what happens at their range, never have, never will, and they are perfectly fine with the county doing their job for them in policing it. AR15’s which are not even allowed, and you are to have a hunting license to enter the gate, you think anybody ever checks that? I’d bet my life they don’t—they are nowhere to be found and never answers the phone. While I was waiting on our county deputies to come, I was calling other TWRA numbers—no answer. Nothing new.

People are used to and expect gunfire in the daylight, but when repetitive shooting starts happening at darkness outside the tunnels, everybody’s guard goes up, and then I start getting calls, which is fine and expected. There is a highlighted sign right as you enter the gate of the range with posted hours. At 4:50p Sat. it was dusk and one would think a war is going on or a fight/shootout. We have several videos/audio of what goes on after dark. Of course you can’t see but you sure can hear it. I didn’t have a weapon and never got out of my car. It was 3 of them with high powered rifles. When I had to call the second time b/c of their threats, deputy said officers were on the way. I told deputy I would block them in—she said I couldn’t do that—-so I didn’t. I was at least 25 or more feet from their vehicle at any point and time. They could have left any time they chose too, but I was waiting on the officers regardless, especially after the dry run the night before, plus they did find someone at TWRA to come. We waited almost an hour for them to show up.

“What we all out here would really like to know is—why do people want to repetitive shoot when it’s dark? Our conclusion—they’ve done it for years and have gotten away with it, and knows TWRA doesn’t care, so they come and go as they please, and shoot with whatever they want to. It’s supposed to be closed Mon-Thursday. It’s fair game anytime at this range. Interestingly, when I was calling the only TWRA number I have, I checked the range website to make sure I had the number correct, and what hours does it show—closes at 7p. They don’t even update their website. I did suggest an edit with Google posting the sign they have right beside gate—it was accepted. You can’t miss the sign—but the sign doesn’t matter anyway. That first picture was a previous posted sign at entrance. The 3rd photo is what’s right beside the gate you enter the range. I have never once been past the gate. I was parked outside the gate.

“It’s soon to be an election year. I work hard for my constituents. Some of the threats I was getting from them was “she’s a commissioner—we’ll just get her beat” and then the lies began.”

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