Town manager Bennett says officer on paid leave

Last updated: July 04. 2014 3:20PM - 26949 Views
By Sarah Willets swillets@civitasmedia.com

Lt. Tommy Wright
Lt. Tommy Wright
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RED SPRINGS —The new head of the detective division of the Red Springs Police Department is on paid leave after being arrested Thursday on drug charges.

George Thomas “Tommy” Wright Jr. was charged by State Bureau of Investigation agents with four counts of trafficking prescription drugs by possession and five counts of obtaining a controlled substance by doctor shopping, according to Jennifer Canada, a Department of Justice spokeswoman.

Wright, who posted bond, could not be reached for comment.

Canada said three of the trafficking charges are level one and the fourth is level two. Level one trafficking applies to amounts between four and 14 grams and level two to amounts between 14 and 28 grams.

According to Canada, the Moore County Sheriff’s Office referred the matter to the SBI on June 25 and assisted with the investigation.

Town manager James Bennett said that it is not believed that Wright possessed any drugs while on-duty.

Bennett said “it’s too early to say” whether Wright will remain on leave, be suspended or be allowed to return to work.

“We don’t know the circumstances around it … so let’s see how things unfold.” Bennett said.

Bennett informed the board of commissioners about the arrest in an email Thursday afternoon.

Wright, who is 48, was hired by the town in November 2011. He was promoted to the lieutenant over the detective division last week. Wright earns $35,957 a year.

Police Chief Ronnie Patterson, who is on vacation this week, declined to comment on the charges.

“I would refer all questions to the SBI who is conducting the investigation,” Patterson said. “I don’t want to say anything until I’ve had a chance to speak to the SBI and investigate further.”

Wright came to Red Springs after serving 22 years with the Laurinburg Police Department. He was set to become police chief there in 2007, but never got the top job because of alleged criminal misconduct.

The allegations, which included soliciting to commit crimes against nature, led to Wright’s termination six months after he was told that he would be promoted to Laurinburg’s police chief. A three-year investigation by the SBI resulted in no prosecution by Scotland County District Attorney Kristy Newton.

Wright sued the city of Laurinburg in 2012 in federal court for unpaid back wages and claims that the firing ruined his reputation, making it difficult for him to find employment. A judge later ruled that the city was not liable.

A native of Laurinburg, Wright is a graduate of Scotland High School, Richmond Community College and the NC Justice Academy.

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