A Metro police officer has been demoted for something he did to a homeless man's belongings.
What started as a peaceful encounter on public property turned scary when the officer pulled out a knife.
The officer didn't attack the homeless man with the knife, but he did go after the man's only shelter: his tent.
Now, that officer has been removed from the streets and his higher-ups are having to apologize for his actions.
Shawn Conner has been homeless for the past four years. Since then, he's lived in a tent off Charlotte Avenue, and during that time he's met Metro police officers on several occasions.
"Never had any problems, never," Conner said.
In fact, some of them he calls friends.
"We talk. I'm always saluting or saying, 'Hi.' One of them stopped me in the alleyway a little while ago and said, 'How you doing, Mr. Connor?' '[I said] doing fine,'" Conner said.
But on a recent night, a group of officers made a sweep on Connor's camp, hoping to clean up some of the crime happening in the area.
Connor was cited for criminal trespassing, but when he returned he couldn't believe what he saw.
"My tent was slashed. I mean, it looked like Freddy Krueger had come through there and cut it up. Brand new tent. I hadn't had it two weeks," Conner said. "$150 dollar tent, and they're not easy for me to come by being homeless, you know."
Connor said he had no choice but to sleep in what was left of his home.
"It was the only place I had. Woke up with a half-inch of snow on me the next morning, one of the coldest nights of the year. I could have died," Conner said.
Officer Shaun Heath admitted to the deed, and he's since been taken off the streets and is now under investigation by the department.
"This was one officer doing something that he shouldn't have done. It should not have happened, there's no question about that. He realizes that. He realizes that he was wrong in what he did," said Metro Police Cmdr. Marlene Pardue, of the West Precinct.
As for Connor, he's not asking for Heath's job.
"I hate that. I really do," Conner said.
He's not even asking for a new tent. All he wants is an apology and mutual respect.
"I know a lot of people don't like the homeless," he said. "It was nasty. All they had to do was say, 'Shawn, leave.' And I would have left. I would have left right then."
Heath has been with the department for three years and hasn't been in trouble before now. He will remain off the streets until the investigation is complete.
Connor said he's now borrowing a friend's tent and has since moved into the woods.
Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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