Former governor objects to building honoring him

NASHVILLE (AP) — A former Tennessee governor told a newspaper that he doesn’t feel qualified for the honor of having the state’s legislative office building renamed for him.

Republican former Gov. Winfield Dunn said he has reservations about state Rep. Ron Gant’s efforts to rename Nashville’s Cordell Hull Office Building in his honor, The Daily Memphian reported Monday. The 92-year-old politician emphasized he still “deeply” appreciates Gant’s consideration, he told the newspaper.

Gant, a Fayette County Republican, hasn’t filed any formal legislation to change the name, but he said last week that support was growing in the Legislature for his initial proposal.

“Former Gov. Dunn is a humble man and was a dedicated servant for our state,” Gant said in a statement following Dunn’s comments. “It is not surprising he is hesitant of this honor being bestowed upon him.”

Gant added that he wouldn’t pursue the measure if it’s not wanted, though he said many legislators supported his idea.

The building is currently named for Cordell Hull, an East Tennesse Democratic congressman who served as a state House member, Secretary of State under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his role in establishing the United Nations. While explaining his hesitations on having the building named after him, Dunn called Hull an “unblemished representative of what Tennessee is.”

The Nashville building houses the Legislature’s offices and was renovated and reopened two years ago.

Country Music Hall of Fame breaks record in 2019

NASHVILLE (AP) — The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum says nearly 1.3 million people visited the Nashville, Tennessee, museum last year, breaking an annual attendance record.

The downtown museum, which expanded in 2014, has welcomed more than a million people each year for five consecutive years and saw its largest ever annual attendance last year.

The expansion allowed for more exhibit space, archival storage, educational classrooms and special event space, including two theaters, the Taylor Swift Education Center and Hatch Show Print.

The building also houses the Country Music Hall of Fame rotunda where the names of country music’s founding musicians are listed on plaques.

In addition to its permanent exhibit, the museum featured temporary exhibits last year about outlaw country music, Kacey Musgraves, Brooks & Dunn and Keith Whitley.

In 2020, new exhibits about Chris Stapleton, Martina McBride and Bill Anderson will be on display.

Kentucky auto plant consolidating with Tennessee facility

SHELBYVILLE, Ky. (AP) — An auto parts plant is closing in Kentucky and consolidating production with a plant in Tennessee.

Michigan-based Ficosa said any of the 180 employees in Shelbyville, Kentucky, can transfer to its plant in Cookeville, Tennessee, news outlets report.

The company will close the Shelbyville plant in July.

The first job reductions at the plant will begin in April. The company will provide support and resources to help employees who stay in Shelbyville find other jobs.

Ficosa makes exterior mirrors for vehicles and automotive vision systems.

“While the decision to close our Kentucky facility was a difficult one, current business conditions in the automotive sector makes it critical for Ficosa to make this strategic move to increase operational efficiency and provide a sustainable model for future growth,” Joan Canellas, Ficosa North America’s chief executive, said in a news release. “We recognize the effect this move has on our employees, and we are working with them to minimize the impact.”

Prosecutor won’t seek death penalty in Waffle House shooting

NASHVILLE (AP) — Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty for a man accused of killing four people at a Tennessee Waffle House.

Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk’s office said in a court filing that it would seek life in prison without the possibility of parole for Travis Reinking, The Tennessean reported Wednesday.

Authorities say Reinking was nearly naked, wearing only a green jacket, when he opened fire in April 2018 at the Waffle House with an assault-style rifle. Police credit a quick-thinking restaurant patron with wrestling the rifle away from the gunman and likely preventing more deaths.

The case was put on hold for months after the attack while Reinking was treated for schizophrenia. A judge later deemed him fit for trial and he was indicted last year on 17 counts including murder.

Funk did not comment on the decision, which was included in a December court filing. Reinking’s attorney, Paul Bruno, did not return the newspaper’s request for comment.

The judge in the case has issued a gag order that forbids lawyers from discussing it.

A trial date has not been announced.

Donors give $46,000 for Tennessee county’s school meals

MURFREESBORO (AP) — Tennessee businesses, churches and nonprofits recently donated $46,000 toward unpaid meal debt in Rutherford County’s public schools.

The majority of the money came from B.H. Holmes Construction Co. Inc., which donated $39,200 to eight schools in La Vergne and Smyrna, The Daily News Journal reported.

“We had a really good year, and we just wanted to put it back into our community to make things easier for people around us,” said office manager Shauna Altizer, whose grandfather founded the company in 1981.

Even with the donation, students still owe more than $172,000 in meal debt. Last year, the schools had to cover $111,527 in unpaid meals.

The schools don’t withhold food from students that don’t have the money to pay for it, schools spokesman James Evans has said. For students who owe money, cafeteria managers try to determine if the family qualifies for the federal Free or Reduced Lunch Program.

“I think there’s a lot of different reasons that students end up with the debt,” Altizer said. “Everybody needs help sometimes, and children shouldn’t be the ones to suffer the consequences because of that.”

Trucker found shot inside vehicle, suspect surrenders

MEMPHIS. (AP) — A Tennessee truck driver was found fatally shot inside his tractor-trailer and a suspect surrendered to deputies a day later, authorities said.

Dajuante Stuart, 30, of Hermitage, was found fatally shot inside his truck Wednesday on Interstate 269 near Memphis, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said.

After reviewing video footage inside Stuart’s cab, detectives called it a homicide investigation and put out a description of a suspect, who turned himself in Thursday, the sheriff’s office tweeted.

The suspect was not identified and there was no word on possible charges.

Tennessee authorities make drug arrest after chase, shootout

CHATTANOOGA (AP) — Tennessee authorities said they arrested a woman Friday on drug charges after the driver of the car she was in a chase and shootout the previous day that injured him and a state trooper.

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office said 20-year-old Courtney Faulkner was arrested on methamphetamine, marijuana and heroin charges.

Tennessee Highway Patrol officers tried to stop a vehicle on a Chattanooga highway Thursday, but the driver, Cody Seals, fled and police pursued, the sheriff’s office has said.

A deputy said Seals began shooting and two troopers returned fire. One trooper, Khalat Ghazi, and Seals were wounded by gunfire, authorities said.

Ghazi was hospitalized and released. Seals remains hospitalized. He was last reported as in stable condition.

Warrant: Mom left infant who drowned in tub for ‘me time’

KNOXVILLE (AP) — An 11-month-old Tennessee boy left in a bathtub without supervision has died and his mother is facing charges of murder and abuse after telling authorities she left the child to have some “me time.”

The boy, who was found unresponsive in the tub Wednesday night, died Friday morning, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital spokeswoman Erica Estep told news outlets.

The boy’s mother, Lindsee Leonardo, 32, was charged Thursday with aggravated child abuse, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office said. The office announced Friday that Leonardo had been charged with first-degree murder.

Leonardo told police she left Aiden Leonardo and a 23-month-old sibling in the tub so she could have some “me time,” an arrest warrant said. She told police she was away for about 10 minutes during which she smoked a cigarette and listened to music, the warrant states.

When Leonardo returned, she told police the infant was floating on his back, not breathing and she called 911. The toddler wasn’t injured.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Leonardo has an attorney who could comment on the charges.

2 men charged in death of officer killed during foot chase

NASHVILLE (AP) — Two men who fled from Tennessee authorities have been charged in the death of an officer who was struck by a vehicle during the pursuit.

Kevin Jordan and Emani C. Martin Jr., both 19, were charged Thursday with reckless homicide in the death of Hendersonville Master Patrol Officer Spencer Bristol, news outlets reported.

According to Tennessee Highway Patrol, Bristol was driving after a fleeing car that crashed while attempting to merge onto an interstate. Jordan, the driver of the vehicle, was immediately arrest but Martin fled on foot, authorities said.

Bristol followed Martin across the highway and was fatally struck by an SUV. Martin was later arrested.

The arrest warrant said Jordan and Martin caused Bristol’s death because they created “substantial and unjustifiable risk that the pursuing officer would be killed.”

Both men were previously charged with felony reckless endangerment and evading arrest when the homicide charges were filed.