Police accused her of carrying a stolen gun. They were wrong

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BROWNSVILLE, Tenn. -- "'Ma'am, put your hands behind your back, you're under arrest,' and I'm like, what?"

It's a night Veronica Pruitt says forever changed her life.

"It's a lot you know, my image," Pruitt said to WREG as she wiped tears from her eyes.

The 47-year old mother and grandmother sat down with News Channel 3 a week ago to explain what happened on June 9.

Her snow-cone stand was set up at a local park and farmer's market in Brownsville.

Pruitt said, "I was having a normal day, getting ready to shut down."

Pruitt said police then showed up and began questioning her friend about outstanding warrants out of Kentucky related to child support.

It had nothing to do with Pruitt, so she continued her closing routine, but at some point, an officer turned to her.

"He said ma'am, do you have a holster on your side? I said yes sir. He said, 'Do you have a permit to carry?' I said yes sir. He said, 'Could I see it?' I said yes sir, here it is."

Pruitt says the officer asked to hold onto the weapon. What she didn't know was he decided to run a check on the gun.

"When he came back he said, 'Ma'am, put your hands behind your back, you're under arrest!' I'm like, for what, you know, what did I do? I didn't know!"

The gun Pruitt carried for her own peace of mind provided the opposite of protection that June evening.

"I said, what's wrong? 'Ma'am, the gun is stolen,'" she said the officer explained.

Pruitt was arrested and charged with theft of property.

Police said the gun she was carrying matched a stolen gun out of Robbinsdale, Minnesota.

However, Pruitt said that wasn't possible. "I said no, I bought this gun!"

Pruitt told police she bought her gun from a store called Delta Gunner Firearms.  The store, located in Brownsville, is now closed.

She didn't have a bill of sale, so law enforcement officers said she'd have to prove her case in court.

Chief Kelvin Evans is the assistant chief of police in Brownsville. He told WREG during an interview last week, "We're just trying to figure out and find out receipts and do a paper trail on this weapon."

That trail would eventually lead to the proof of Pruitt's innocence.

Pruitt said, as News Channel 3 spoke with her Monday, "You guys, WREG, I think you guys helped me out with the investigation."

WREG filed a Public Records Request pressing for more details and body camera video surrounding Pruitt's arrest.

Days later, the city's attorney called WREG and Pruitt with new information.

Pruitt explained, "Attorney Michael Banks called and said the charges would be dropped, and my first comment was, after everything I went through! But at the same token I told him thank you."

Turns out, the Brownsville Police Department had put an innocent woman behind bars.

Police wouldn't go back on camera but sent a statement through their attorney explaining the charges were dismissed after they discovered they ran the wrong serial number through the stolen weapon's database.

"The correct serial number on the weapon revealed that it was not a stolen weapon, and therefore charges against Miss Pruitt have been dismissed," read part of a statement sent via email by Michael Banks, who serves as the city and county attorney.

Banks said the officer read off the correct serial number, which is H8Q46, but then dispatch repeated an incorrect serial number, H8E46.

The latter, which is the same make and model of Pruitt's gun,  is in fact a stolen gun. However, it was not the gun Pruitt was carrying.

According to the police report, the officer had dispatch confirm three times.

Pruitt said, "But three times though, three times? They read it back three times? I'm sorry I just don't buy that one."

Pruitt says the charges might have been dropped, but it will never change the fact she was actually arrested.

"That killed my whole spirit just to be fingerprinted and mugshot and it's shared all over the internet."

Which is why Pruitt says she's not done getting to the bottom of her case. "I expect an apology. I need a public apology because this was embarrassing.

Some employees could face disciplinary action pending the outcome of an investigation. Pruitt says she's considering legal action.

WREG is still waiting on the requested body camera video, as well as written copies of certain police policies and procedures.


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