NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — We are starting to get a clearer understanding of what prompted a high-ranking member of Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) to run from the law in a multiple-county chase on March 10.
That’s the day that Jeff Smith, the embattled Director of Visual and Performing Arts for MNPS, got in his orange Nissan Murano with his two kids and led close to a dozen law officers at high speeds across Davidson, Cheatham and Montgomery counties.
On Wednesday, March 15, the father charged with multiple felonies in multiple counties spoke to News 2 from the Montgomery County Jail.
Talking on a video phone, the 46-year-old told News 2 he ran from the law because the courts ordered deputies to take his two children in an emergency child custody order that Davidson County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) deputies were enforcing on March 10.
Smith said he ran, “Because I had several people without a warrant and failed to produce an ID who came to our house, with guns drawn, and had no reason to be there.”
Smith is the Director of Visual and Performing Arts for MNPS. It’s a position he is very proud of.
“I am a decorated veteran educator for 26 years with a spotless record who has built phenomenal programs, and at all turns, when I tell the truth, advocate for kids, and do what’s right, I am quietly asked to resign,” Smith said.
According to a letter obtained by News 2, MNPS placed the 46-year-old on administrative leave with pay on March 2 for what a school spokesperson called “concerning behavior.”
Throughout his 20-plus minute interview, Smith espoused a complicated conspiracy theory involving MNPS.
When News 2 asked Smith about his controversial claims as possibly being the reason he has been disciplined, he said he is being silenced because he is trying to tell his truth.
“On the day of that paid administrative leave, Wednesday, March 1, they called me into a secret meeting with Dr. Battle and 15 leaders, most of whom I’ve never met with in my 4 1/2 years with the district,” Smith said.
According to Metro police, a welfare check regarding Jeff Smith was received, and on March 9, a mobile crisis counselor visited Smith at his Antioch home.
The report said officers responded to the listed address in reference to the associated report number. The complainant advised that her husband was having a psychotic episode. Mobile crisis responded and provided an evaluation. The mobile crisis counselor determined that the listed victim did have a mental illness, but was not a danger to himself or others.
According to the DCSO, the next day, seven deputies came to Smith’s home to serve an emergency child custody order to take Smith’s two children.
“The lead officer knocked on the door and announced sheriff’s office and at that time from inside the house, Mr. Smith said, ‘give me just a minute please,'” DCSO Chief Warrants Officer Billy Lee said.
That’s when deputies said Smith, with his two kids in the car, drove recklessly out of his garage, slightly grazing one of the officers who was not harmed.
News 2 rechecked with the DCSO, who said the law enforcement officers were in uniforms with badges visible. They announced themselves and did not pull guns until Smith drove his vehicle at them in a dangerous manner. No shots were fired.
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When asked why he drove away so fast with his kids in the car, Smith said this: “Here’s what I told my kids in the car, who saw all this happening, who were as scared as me, they said, ‘Dad, you need to run away.’ They convinced me.”
Minutes later, a Cheatham County deputy tried to stop Smith and his two children at gunpoint.
Smith drove away, maneuvering wildly in rush hour traffic at speeds over 100 mph.
The chase went through a crowded gas station, and officials said a Montgomery County law enforcement officer was almost hit when Smith swerved radically off the road.
After racing through many neighborhoods, it finally ended on a residential street.
That’s when one of Smith’s sons ran from the car.
He was quickly apprehended and told authorities his dad was the driver.
As for Smith, he has a different point of view on his actions that deputies say endangered many lives.
“I had not touched anyone, injured anyone. I went out of my way to protect my kids and innocent bystanders. They said drop everything. I only had a phone in my hand. I was using the phone to record them for my safety,” Smith said. “They immediately jumped in my car and knocked the phone from my hand, they said open the door, and I told them two times the door is broken and will not open. They smashed the window and they tazed me twice and dragged me through the broken glass cutting my arms legs and head.”
Now facing multiple felonies in three counties, Smith had emotional words for his children.
“I love you. Daddy misses you. I just want to see you and I’ve loved you my whole life. Everything I have done is to support you into growing into the incredible human beings you are. You are both gifted and smart, more than you give yourself credit for. You are warriors for social justice just like your dad. Stay safe kids and trust nobody no matter what they do to me I will not stop loving you.”