The newest member of the Chattanooga City Council has an extensive history of criminal behavior and once proudly declared herself racist.
Demetrus "Meechie" Coonrod was arrested and sentenced to prison for charges including child abuse, assault, and armed robbery, local NBC affiliate WRCB reported on Wednesday. Coonrod is also the vice chairwoman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party.
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Local news website the Chattanoogan reports that Coonrod took part in a string of armed robberies targeting restaurants, and on one occasion a blood plasma center. The ringleader of those robberies received 45 years in prison, while Coonrod received seven. That sentence was later reduced in exchange for her testimony against a sexually predatory group of prison guards.
Coonrod was released to a Salvation Army halfway house in 2010, but was kicked out after a string of violations. In the final incident, Coonrod (who is African-American) hurled a racial slur at a white worker.
The future lawmaker said that she wanted to speak to a black man, yelling, "You’re a f**king peckerhead," and, "You’re a f**king peckerwood." According to the incident report, she also asserted she was a racist.
"You are god damn right I’m racist," she reportedly said.
But fellow council members tell WRCB they are standing by Coonrod.
"Her past is her past. She was elected by the people," said council member Darrin Ledford.
"She made it clear up front," Anthony Byrd, another colleague, said. "If you put your mind to something and put God first, the sky is the limit."
Coonrod told WRCB that she wanted to help her community and turn her life around.
"I had time to think about my life. Like what am I doing? What am I not doing? How can I make things right. I knew I did not want to come outside of prison being the same person I was going inside prison," she said. "I began to knock on every door. Reach out to elected officials saying hey I need some help. I need you to help me help my community."
Coonrod is set to be sworn in to Chattanooga City Council next week.