Police close East Knoxville motel due to drugs and prostitution

Police close East Knoxville motel due to drugs and prostitution

Posted: Updated:
The motel is at 2801 E. Magnolia Avenue. The closing order calls it a public nuisance. The motel is at 2801 E. Magnolia Avenue. The closing order calls it a public nuisance.
Donald Perry (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office) Donald Perry (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office)
James Carner (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office) James Carner (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office)
Bruce Armbruster (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office) Bruce Armbruster (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office)

By MONA NAIR
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The Deluxe Inn in East Knoxville was ordered closed Thursday because police say drugs and prostitution were commonplace there.

The closing order calls the motel at 2801 East Magnolia Avenue a public nuisance.

Police say they received 281 calls at the Deluxe Inn between July 1, 2009 and July 1 of this year. The department also received numerous complaints from citizens about the activity.

Officers arrested three men at the inn on various charges. Donald Perry, 50, is charged with failure to appear, James Carner, 41, for violation of probation and Bruce Armbruster, 52, is charged with sexual exploitation of a minor.

Investigators say this is the latest in a series of crackdowns on businesses that promote crime in the city.

Police raided Orange Sports Bar and Grill on Clinton Highway on July 22. They shut it down calling the place a public nuisance.

Investigators believed that bar employees were responsible for drug sales, gambling and prostitution.

Officers and crews spent several hours Thursday afternoon boarding up doors and putting up signs at the Deluxe Inn, letting the public know the business was closed.

Deputy Chief David Rausch, with the Knoxville Police Department, said he believes the motel owners, Pankaj Ishwarlal Thakkar and his wife, Lataben Pankaj Thakkar, were aware of the criminal activity going on at the motel.

"The issues here are numerous," said Deputy Chief Rausch. "This is a crime hot spot. Our map for service calls in the area shows this as a hub of activity."

Rev. Larry Brinson can see the motel from his home across the street. Fed up with 18 years of drug deals and roaming prostitutes in the area, he's one of many who pushed for something to be done.

"Ladies cannot stop and catch the bus here without being propositioned. These are ladies who really just want to catch the bus," said Rev. Brinson.

While some in the area watched in relief as police surrounded the building, others like Harold Kline had mixed emotions.

Kline owns Wishing Well Jewelry, a business near the motel. He said he's happy about the crackdown, but upset about what even more bad publicity on the street will mean for him.

"The more of these you have, the less business you have on Magnolia," said Kline.

Investigators say it will be up to a judge to decide what the future of the business will be.

"What will happen is this will go to court and the owners will present their side. We will then present our side and the judge will decide if they will reopen or not," said Rausch.

Just behind the motel, a memorial with flowers still stands for Elizajuan Stewart, 17. Shortly after Stewart left football practice at Austin-East High School last week, his body was found in an alley.

Investigators say there are no suspects in the murder case at this time. 6 News asked police if this closing had any connection to Stewart's death.

Police say his death is not directly connected to the crackdown.

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