Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong answered questions about his department's handling of Tabitha Gentry, the proclaimed Moorish American who squatted inside a foreclosed $3 million estate.
It was a case from the start when the bank discovered someone was squatting in the East Memphis estate and detectives took the report.
But it was the Shelby County Sheriff's Office that arrested Gentry on March 8 on a burglary warrant. Sheriff's deputies arrested her after she left the mansion. It was a potentially dangerous situation for police as Gentry, also known as Abka Re Bey, says she's a member of the Moorish National Movement, a group of Sovereign Citizens who believe they're above the law.
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The sheriff's department SWAT team, with the help of the Germantown Police Department SWAT team, cleared the mansion after obtaining a search warrant, but they didn't find anyone inside.
Two of Gentry's daughters were staying in the estate with her.
Director Armstrong says his department was concerned about the safety of the children and they didn't want to put them in any unnecessary danger during a police raid. He said the bottom line that this was a property issue.
"We don't ever want to, regardless of what the circumstances are, the perceived circumstances are we look for other alternatives not to put those children and not to put even Tabitha in harms way," he said.
Director Armstrong says his department is encountering more of these types of situations. There's a nationwide increase in Sovereign Citizen activity but the Memphis Police Department doesn't have a formal procedure for dealing with Sovereign Citizens. They treat them like anyone else.
Gentry was charged with two felony counts for burglary and theft and a misdemeanor trespassing charge. She remains in jail on a $2 million bond and is expected to be back in Shelby County General Sessions Court on March 26.