A 71-year-old man threatened a demolition crew clearing vacant, dilapidated houses for the city of Greenwood by waving a rifle at the workers on Ash Street around 7:30 a.m. Thursday.
They took cover behind a truck, but no shots were fired, according to James Arnold, owner of Gravel Hill Construction Co., a subcontractor for the demolitions. The crew was tearing down a residence at 433 Ash.
Robert Lewis Meeks, whose address was listed by the Greenwood Police Department as 321 Nichols St., was charged with displaying a firearm, public intoxication and carrying a concealed weapon. He was jailed within an hour.
“We had a little problem,” said Arnold. “He walked up to my guys on Ash Street and kind of brandished this rifle and made some threats.”
Arnold called the police. He said officers in four or five police cars quickly arrived, and among them was William Blake, a policeman who also is a city code enforcement officer.
“They whisked him right up. They defused the situation. They did real good,” Arnold said.
Meeks also was carrying a pistol, he said. “The gun he was flashing around wasn’t loaded, but the pistol was loaded,” Arnold said.
Betty Stigler, a code enforcement officer for the city, said Meeks was already in custody and sitting in the back of a police car when she arrived at the scene.
The city’s current list of vacant, dilapidated houses and unkempt lots includes 28 properties, including six lots.
Stigler said Meeks owned a vacant house at 321 Nichols that was torn down Wednesday. “The one at 433 Ash St. had nothing to do with him. He lives in the area. I have talked to him several times at his house,” Stigler said.
Mayor Carolyn McAdams said she is disturbed by the event. “This is the first time in my years that this has happened,” she explained.
Dilapidated residences are removed through a process that includes personal contact, notices and approval by the City Council, she said. After council approval, owners of the property are given 30 days’ notice and can save their buildings from being removed by responding and taking action to improve them, she said.
Arnold said his crew finished the Ash Street job Thursday morning and moved on to a house on Avenue F in the afternoon.
He said he doesn’t hold Meeks’ actions against him. “We are glad nobody got hurt,” Arnold said. “He’s an elderly guy. He’s a veteran and has had some problems in the past.”
People become upset when houses are removed, he said: “I understand how they feel. It comes with the territory.”