Deputy apologizes for angry outburst Man threatens strikers after shootings at family homes

March 21, 2007

A Loudon County sheriff's deputy angrily confronting strikers this week was a mistake, and the deputy has apologized, Sheriff Tim Guider said Tuesday.

Guider said deputy Jerry Rabern did so "in the heat of the moment" after weekend shootings at his home and the home of his brother-in-law.

Rabern's son, who lives with him, and his brother-in-law both work at the Maremont Exhaust Products plant where more than 200 workers went on strike early last month.

Meanwhile, investigations continue into weekend acts of vandalism at three residences, said Guider and Loudon City Police Detective Mike Newman.

The owner of the third residence also works at the Maremont plant, law enforcement officials said. It was Rabern's son's car that was shot at, Guider said.

On Feb. 5, more than 200 workers went on strike over what they called significant increases in employee costs for health insurance.

The union represents 227 of 400 Maremont employees. Maremont, which is owned by International Muffler Co. of Schulenburg, Texas, produces automotive exhaust components, including heavy-duty mufflers and catalytic converters.

Guider said the exchange between Rabern and three picketing strikers happened when Rabern was leaving the plant in a patrol car. Apparently, one of the strikers told Rabern his son should not be crossing the picket line, Guider said.

Rabern responded saying he hoped none of them got their jobs back, then threatened to shoot anyone who came on his property, Guider said. The deputy realized his comment was uncalled for and apologized, Guider said.

"He should not have been in a patrol car and making those statements, so I've had a good talk with him," Guider said.

Rabern also gave Guider a written statement:

"I told them that I wasn't blaming them, but if I had been outside when the shooter had come by I would have shot them, and if anyone comes back to do more damage, I will not hesitate to shoot anyone attempting to shoot at my family or property," Rabern wrote.

Earlier this month, local law enforcement officials and representatives from the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the District Attorney General's office met to discuss the strike and issued a statement promising to keep the peace and encouraging the ownership of Maremont and the labor union to negotiate in good faith.

"While we are sympathetic to the fact that many of our friends and neighbors who are part of the Loudon Community have, at least temporarily, lost their jobs and livelihoods, we as the heads of law enforcement do not want to see violence that may result in people being hurt or even worse. As law enforcement officials we obviously must remain neutral on the outcome of this dispute, but we will take the necessary steps to keep the peace, to protect individual property and lives and to keep order in the community of Loudon and the surrounding areas where strikers and workers live," the statement said.

The law enforcement agencies also set up a "confidential tip line" to report suspicious activity. That number is 865-988-6826.