Former Grainger County sheriff denies DUI charges

Former Grainger County sheriff denies DUI charges

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Richard McElhaney (Rutledge Police Department) Richard McElhaney (Rutledge Police Department)
"I never saw blue lights behind me down through there, through Blaine, which they claimed I sped through Blaine. I never saw a blue light," McElhaney said. "I never saw blue lights behind me down through there, through Blaine, which they claimed I sped through Blaine. I never saw a blue light," McElhaney said.
By SHELBY MILLER
6 News Reporter

RUTLEDGE (WATE) - A former Grainger County Sheriff and Tennessee Highway Patrolman was arrested over the weekend after police say he led them on a high speed chase while under the influence.

On top of his past titles, Richard McElhaney is also a Grainger County school bus driver and currently running for mayor in the City of Rutledge.

He's been charged with DUI, evading arrest, reckless driving, speeding and violation of the implied consent law. He also faces a pending charge for the desecration of a tombstone.

McElhaney denies charges he was drunk Saturday night, which is when officers say he sped down Rutledge Pike at more than 100 miles per hour, drove into the United Methodist Church cemetery and hit a grave marker.

"I never saw blue lights behind me down through there, through Blaine, which they claimed I sped through Blaine. I never saw a blue light," McElhaney said.

While McElhaney denies the chase, officers say it started in Blaine after they clocked him going 64 mph in a 45 mph. They say he then sped up, reaching more than 115 mph.

Officers say he pulled into the parking lot of Rutledge United Methodist Church, drove through the cemetery and wrecked his car on a grave marker, leaving a black print. However, McElhaney says there's no way that happened. 

"As you can see, there's no damage to this car, there's not a scratch on it. You can't repair that overnight and you can imagine what a concrete marker would do to this car," he said. 

McElhaney does admit to driving his car through the cemetery, but says he wasn't drunk. He says he planned to park there and walk to his home next door because officers were blocking off the road to his home.

The former Grainger County Sheriff says he worked in law enforcement for 30 years. He's currently a Grainger County school bus driver and running for mayor in the City of Rutledge.

He says, as mayor, he'd drastically change the police department. "I'm running for mayor, and [the chief of police] doesn't want me elected, because he knows if I'm elected, he's fired."

McElhaney doesn't think these charges will hurt his chance of becoming mayor. but he won't be allowed to drive a school bus until the case is closed. He says he plans to hire a lawyer and fight the charges.

This isn't McElhaney's first DUI arrest. He was also a arrested in 2009, but that charge was amended to reckless driving.

Previous story: Former Grainger Co. Sheriff arrested for DUI

McElhaney is scheduled to face formal charges for his latest arrest on Thursday.

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