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Originally published: 2013-12-10 11:51:49
Last modified: 2013-12-10 11:52:34

Sheriff: Not our idea to monitor forum

by Kellen Short

Sheriff Len Hagaman said Monday that deputies attended an education forum held in Deep Gap last week at the request of an assistant of Sen. Dan Soucek -- not at their own recommendation.

Saying "we've got stuff better to do than that," Hagaman said he wasn't aware of the planned panel discussion Nov. 5 until assistant Jennifer Faulkner contacted his office.

He also said there was no truth to rumors that a woman removed from the building was handcuffed, arrested or charged with a crime. He said event organizers did not pay deputies.

Hagaman spoke in response to a statement Soucek made in an interview last week that it was a "sad state of affairs" that police forces contacted him beforehand suggesting an officer presence.

Soucek said Tuesday that he was referring to an earlier event when he made that statement, saying officers took initiative in providing security at an event held at Caldwell Community College.

He said his staff did make initial contact with the Watauga County Sheriff's Office and asked if it was possible to have deputies present at the Deep Gap forum. He said it was routine for law enforcement to appear at such events and said comments on blogs led them to believe they might need to maintain order.

"I thought it would be in the interest of the public to have some degree of civility, and a lot of times, that's what law enforcement can provide," he said.

Soucek also said safety is a legitimate concern.

"I've had death threats at my house," Soucek said. "I realize it's a very intense environment."