A police chief in North Carolina has been suspended after an investigation revealed he referred officers to a “self-vaccination” clinic where proof of vaccination cards could be obtained after paying a nominal fee to inject in a private room or to dispose of the vaccine dose.
The story came to light after Allison Latos, a reporter for Charlotte-based Cox Media station WSOC, posted the results of an investigation conducted by a private firm at the request of the Town of Oakboro against Police Chief TJ Smith.
The investigation commenced after a sheriff complained to town administration after having “seen a text” sent to two troopers about a “vaccine clinic…that involved people being able to self-vaccinate in a private room and therefore did not actually have to receive the shot to gain a vax card.”
The troopers were interviewed by the firm on Dec. 16, stating they received a call from Chief Smith while at breakfast informing the pair they could get injected at a “vax clinic” scheduled to commence on Dec. 16.
One trooper was paraphrased in the letter as saying “attendees could receive their Covid vaccination at the clinic. He also said attendees would have the option to self-inject the vaccine in that they would be given the syringe and go into a bathroom where they could self-inject or dispose of the vaccine. Either way they would receive a vax card.”
Although names were redacted from the report, making the timeline of events unclear, it appears the other trooper confirmed the details, adding that “Smith also told him there was arrangement with the pharmacist” conducting the clinic.
One of the troopers stated they were told by Smith that “the cost to self-inject was $50 or he could pay what he could afford to get this service.”
According to the investigators, Smith was interviewed the next day, and attended with his attorney. The Chief told the PIs that he was contacted by the manager of the building where the vaccine clinic was to be held, the Tucson Ridge Wedding Centre, who “told him of the event but asked him not to have it appear on social media.”
- Chinese Counterfeit Vaccine Ring Bust Highlights Risks of Vaccine Queue Jumping
- Federal Agents Seize 3,000 Fake Vaccination Cards Made in China
- 8,500 Germans Asked to Take Third Vaccine Dose After Nurse Found Injecting Saline
The investigators said they attended the site of the clinic at the time it was to occur, and found that “the venue and parking lot were dark with exterior lights only on for the building” and that “the front gate was closed and secured.”
Smith told the investigators he had known the manager “for some time as a business owner in town and he trusted him, so he thought nothing of this procedure.”
The Chief was paraphrased further as admitting he contacted the two troopers because “he knew they both were anti-vax and felt this would be helpful to them” since the department, like countless others across the formerly free world, have a mandatory vaccine policy in place.
In the report, investigators stated Smith named the health care provider as a company called Vax Van, located in Concord.
On Dec. 22, Latos said on Twitter that she contacted the company, providing a screenshot of an email received in response.
Latos’s email showed the company identifying themselves as Mobile Vaccination Services (MVS). They stated they have never been to Oakboro. The spokesperson for MVS said, “I know that the term ‘vax van’ is used casually by other companies for a mobile/pop-up clinic…that has been the source of some confusion with us in the past.”
“I guess we really should copyright the name, but that’s kinda far down my to-do list here in the middle of the pandemic!” the company added.
The same day, NBC affiliate WMBF published a disciplinary notice sent by Town of Oakboro Administrator Doug Burgess to TJ Smith, advising the police chief he would be placed on unpaid leave for a period of two weeks beginning Dec. 21, in addition to a six month probationary period.
WMBF’s article also printed a statement from Smith, which gave his side of the story. Smith’s statements confirmed the findings of the private investigators, “To make a long story short, in retrospect, I made a mistake. A friend called me with some information about a mobile vaccination clinic. It was a busy morning like every other busy morning.”
“After I got off the phone with that friend, I called two other officers (not in my department) and passed on information about what was described as a ‘self-vaccination’ clinic. I got one phone call, hung up and made two others. I didn’t sit back and digest the information, ruminate on it, or otherwise give it much thought. I just passed it on.”
“Having the benefit of hindsight now, it is obvious the entire process sounds questionable,” said Smith.