KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knoxville Police Officer Travis Shuler spent two days on suspension and was reassigned after he took home a vial of blood evidence taken from a woman involved in a fatal wreck in 2021. The blood sat in his home refrigerator during Memorial Day weekend instead of being delivered to police headquarters, according to an internal investigation report.
On May 27, 2021, Shuler worked a fatal crash on Bruhin Road. The following day, he got a subpoena for blood from the suspect in the wreck. The blood was drawn at UT Medical Center.
According to an internal affairs report, Shuler was to collect the blood from the lab on May 28, 2021, around 4:30 p.m. The report goes on to say that due to concerns about traffic, Shuler took the blood home and put it in his refrigerator instead of delivering it to police headquarters. It was Memorial Day weekend.
This is against department policy, which says officers must turn in all “property confiscated” by the end of their shift. Shuler told Sergeant Rachel Britt, who led the internal affairs investigation, that he planned to drop off the blood on May 29, when he worked another wreck, but he “forgot.”
Shuler told internal affairs investigators that he planned to take the blood in on June 1, which was the next day he worked, but he could not find it in the morning before he left. The report said Shuler asked his wife to look for it and call him if she found it.
Investigators said in the internal affairs report that that Shuler’s wife found the blood and attempted to call him multiple times but he did not answer. She then went to police headquarters where she told the officer working the front desk about the blood. While there, investigators said Shuler face-timed with his wife and made a plan to meet so she could hand off the blood to him.
After Shuler got the blood from his wife, he took it to headquarters where it was logged.
According to an internal affairs report, Shuler’s wife’s visit to police headquarters is what led Knoxville Police to look into the date and time when the blood was officially logged as evidence and to begin an internal affairs investigation. Documents within the report show that the dates on the evidence log did not match the day that the blood was turned in or the day the blood was collected by Shuler.
The investigation also revealed that Shuler was not wearing his body camera while investigating the fatal crash on May 27. This is also a violation of KPD policy which states:
Officers and vehicles equipped with audio/video recording equipment shall be in a record mode at all times when there is potential for contact with a person in the community, whether on-duty, off-duty or during secondary employment.
As a result of the investigation, Shuler was suspended without pay for two days beginning January 17, 2022. He also was removed from the Motors Unit and crash reconstruction detail following this incident and is currently assigned to patrol according to a KPD spokesperson. Shuler has worked for KPD since December 1998.
This is the second Knoxville Police officer in trouble for violating the department’s body camera policy. In April, now-former officer Joseph Roberts entered a guilty plea to tampering with government records. Roberts also turned off his cruiser camera and his body worn camera in violation of KPD policy, the department said.