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Knoxville bounty hunters say mall takedown was wrong move

(WVLT)
Published: Feb. 2, 2018 at 10:36 PM EST
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A brawl in the middle of West Town Mall in Knoxville ended with a man getting stunned with a stun gun, and cellphone video captured folks' surprised reactions as he was taken down.

The intense video was circulated throughout social media, prompting questions of who the men were, and the legality of what they did. The woman who took the video told Local 8 News the men who used the stun gun were bounty hunters.

Latronis Rowan and his friends witnessed the event as it happened, saying, "It sounded like a fight, and a lot of people were running to that direction of the mall. We edged a little closer to see what was going on."

Rowan and his friends said they work as fugitive recovery officers, known colloquially as bounty hunters. However, they said their approach to the situation would have been much different.

"There were kids around, adults, people were recording, screaming, 'That's wrong, who are you?' Everyone was in complete shock," Rowan said.

Rowan and his fellow bounty hunters said though what the men in the video did wasn't illegal, it also wasn't the right move.

"What really shocked me about it is, us as fugitive recovery officers, there is a code of ethics that we try to uphold. And the way that the incident happened at the mall, which is considered a public place, really poses a safety hazard," Chief Fugitives Recovery Officer David Gillette said.

"I would've just held back, waited until he came out of the mall and took the situation out," Fugitive Recovery Officer Paul Hunley said. "Because adrenaline does come into this, but you've always got to put their safety first."

Gillette said bounty hunters make themselves noticeable by wearing a type of identification, such as a badge or a vest, that clearly alerts bystanders of their occupation. Gillette said the men in the mall had none of that identification on their persons.

"If they had identification, then that would have helped a lot," Rowan said. "For all they knew, they were just criminals kidnapping someone, that's what it looked like."

Though they would have done things differently, this group of bounty hunters told Local 8 News the situation could have been a lot worse.

"If you didn't know if this fugitive had a gun on them, or if a fugitive had some kind of weapon on them, they could have really, really have the potential to hurt some customers at the mall," Gillette said. "So you know, the way that that whole situation went down was really not appropriate."