Roane law officers react to Leon Houston acquittal

7:10 PM, Nov 15, 2009   |    comments
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Leon Houston after being acquitted

The day after a jury acquitted a man charged with killing a former police officer as well as a Roane County deputy, his colleagues in the sheriff's office vow to move on.

"They've done what they thought was necessary. They came back with a not guilty verdict. We don't have to like it, we just have to live with it. That's the judicial system," Roane County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Tim Phillips said.

A jury found Leon Houston not guilty on all counts related to a shootout three and a half years ago.

It was his second trial; the first one ended with a hung jury.

His brother, Rocky Houston, is also charged in the deadly shooting; the mixed verdict in his trial is on appeal.

After the verdict Thursday, Leon Houston assured Sheriff Jack Stockton that he should expect no trouble from him.

Then Houston went home to the Ten Mile Community. And now law enforcement copes with an accused killer cleared of all charges.

"Bill Jones was a personal friend of mine and also my training officer when I started in law enforcement in '83, so it really touched me personally that Bill lost his life doing what he loved," Sheriff Stockton said.

Stockton was not sheriff of Roane County on May 11, 2006, the day of the shooting.

"It's heart breaking to know that one of your own got killed in the line of duty, and one of the people that's accused of killing him gets to walk free," Chief Deputy Tim Phillips said.

They may not like the not guilty verdict, but they said they will live with it.

"It's hard for us to deal with our inner emotions sometimes, but it's our duty also, and we know we have to move forward," Stockton said.

Both Stockton and Phillips said policy has moved forward since that day in 2006.

Ride-alongs must be personally approved by the sheriff's office top brass and are usually limited to college students studying criminal justice. Everyone in uniform must wear a bullet proof vest. And warrants are served in specific, safe ways.

"We're going to continue to do our job," Phillips said. "We're going to be professional to everybody."

That includes the Houston family, especially if anyone threatens them.

"They know they can call, and we will respond to a call for their protection if that need be," Stockton said.

They said the verdict will not hurt the sheriff's office relationship with the community as a whole.

"The majority of people are really good, solid people and they do want law enforcement, and they want to live in a community they can be proud of," Stockton said.

"A lot of people are proud to wear the badge. We're going to continue to wear it and wear it proudly," Phillips said.

Leon and Rocky Houston are scheduled to be back in court January 11, 2010 for matters unrelated to the deadly shootout.

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