(Memphis) While a sovereign citizen squatting in a $3 million home has recently captured the city’s attention, Memphis citizens agree the issue continues all over town.
“Trying to control the problem is the hardest thing, because there are so many abandoned houses, and people aren’t doing anything about them,” said Darryl Ducker.
Some, like Denise King, feel that the coverage and attention on Tabitha Gentry is deserved.
“You see people in abandoned houses, but you don’t see them putting chains on houses. That’s what makes the difference,” she said.
Gentry filed papers with the Shelby County registrar’s office claiming that the mansion is hers, when in fact it belongs to Renesant Bank.
She also claimed to be a sovereign citizen who does not need to follow laws.
“If that’s how it’s going to look, everybody’s going to go try to squat in a house,” King said.
But others said the efforts to evict Gentry were an indication of the area of town.
“Very unfair. Because what if it was in Orange Mound, or Lakeview Gardens, or somewhere in that area? I don’t think so much focus would be on it,” said Linda Jackson.
Jackson often sees homeless people or drug users in abandoned buildings. Sometimes they will even set fires, setting the properties ablaze.
Still, homeless people looking for a place to stay for the night seem different from Tabitha Gentry.
“They’re just trying to find somewhere to sleep, for the moment. You know what I’m saying? They’re not take over it, put furniture in it, and live with their families,” King said.
The issue of squatters, whether they are in mansions or in shacks, has to be approached through a legal eviction process.
Memphis police do not handle evictions, and in the case of Gentry, did not interfere in a civil matter.
Shelby County sheriff’s deputies eventually arrested Gentry off-property, after one of the aunt of one of the teenaged daughters filed a protective order.
The 15-year-old girl is now in the custody of her paternal aunt. The younger child is in state custody.