Tim Hyatt was water and sewer superintendent for the city of Ashville from 1995 until he suffered a stroke in 2006. On Sept. 18, Hyatt died at age 66.
His widow, Elaine Hyatt, attended Monday’s council meeting to complain about how she and her family were treated by Ashville policeman Ed Hampton just moments after her husband died. Hyatt was upset at Hampton, and at a man in a red shirt, who she said was either a medic or ambulance driver.
“This man (in the red shirt) wanted me to go and get Tim’s social security card,” she said. “I couldn’t find his social security, and he then told me to go and get Tim’s wallet and driver’s license. I told him I did not know where they were, because I let him put those up. He kept on until I got upset, and I finally told him to get out and leave me alone.”
Hyatt then said her daughter Terri came to her house, and that’s when Hampton arrived and asked for Tim’s pain medicine.
“He then called Terri outside and told her he could arrest her on the spot for putting her daddy’s medicine in her pocket,” she said. “He kept on and on until Terri came in and finally went to the cabinet to get the medicine and take it out to him.
It’s like he thought we were going to take his medicine. We’ve never taken anybody’s medicine. We’re not dope heads. We were treated awful. I want him reprimanded. It was like a circus, and Tim had just died.
“It was cruel. I think he needs to be fired. If he hasn’t got any more sense than that, what’s he going to do next, shoot somebody? Then what are you going to do? Reprimand him again? Look into it? I don’t ever want to see that man again.”
Mayor Robert McKay said he has talked with Police Chief Dennis Matthews, and together, they will talk to Hampton concerning the situation.
“We want to make sure our officers are respected,” McKay said. “Sometimes, they make mistakes, and I have made mistakes. What we need to do is get Terri to come in and get with Dennis to fill out a police report. We will get the police officer to write up a detailed report on what happened.”
Hyatt then called Terri on the phone and told her to come to the municipal building.
“Get over here, right now,” Hyatt told her daughter on the phone. “I want you to tell them what Ed said outside that night. Get over here. Dennis has to hear it in your own words what he told you.”
Terri Hyatt arrived about eight minutes later, and sat by her mother.
“The first thing I want to say is that people need to be more compassionate,” she said. “We lost three family members within two weeks. I was dealing with my two children, who had just lost their daddy, and now lost their grandfather.
“I was upset myself, and then got accused of stealing my father’s pain medication. I think the whole situation could have been dealt with a lot more gracefully. I think people need to take a look at the big picture. It was totally inappropriate.”
McKay said they all knew and loved Tim and they are all very sorry he was gone.
“He was one of the best people who ever worked for the city of Ashville,” McKay said. “He put his heart and soul into it. I’m really hurt about all of this. I’m truly sorry that you were hurt already worse than you were already hurting.
“I understand you being upset, and I don’t blame you.”
Matthews said he wasn’t there the night all of this took place.
“I’ve heard this side, and I fully intend to hear the other side,” Matthews said. “As head of the department, I apologize for anything that may have happened or was said wrong. I can’t fix it, I can’t do anything about it, and I can’t change what has happened. I will strive to make sure that nothing inappropriate happens like that again.
“I really don’t think any of our officers would intentionally try to make a bad situation worse, but sometimes mistakes are made and things happen.”
On Tuesday, Matthews said that he talked to Terri Hyatt following the council meeting, and offered the opportunity to file a formal complaint. According to Matthews, she declined to do so.