An Alabama fire chief is in hot water after he pulled a gun on a Black real estate and contractors who were at his home for a real estate showing.
Jason Edward Rickels’ home in Roswell, Georgia, is up for sale. The four-bedroom luxury farmhouse is listed at $925,000 on Zillow. But when Regina Lee, a 33-year-old real estate agent, scheduled a showing at his home, Rickels showed up with a gun and damaged the camera of one of the photographers she hired.
Rickels, 43, is the fire chief in Tarrant, Alabama. He was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony and second-degree criminal damage to property. He spent a night in jail before being released on bail.
“This is a baseless charge,” his attorney, Brian Steel, told The Birmingham News. “The bottom line is we are going to fight this case ethically, lawfully and zealously until the end and Chief Rickels will be exonerated. He has done nothing wrong.”
Rickels told police he thought Lee and her entourage were burglars attempting to rob his home. But the Atlanta real-estate agent said she thinks Rickels was only threatened by her team because they were Black.
“Unfortunately it’s sad that even while I’m working hard to provide for my family as a single mom, I have to encounter hatred and racism because of the color of my skin,” Lee said in a statement on Instagram.
She said Rickels cussed her out, called her a scammer and pointed a gun at her, despite the fact she had permission to be on the property to do the showing.
“All I seen was HATE in his eyes, he even lied to the police in front of me by saying he thought my photographers camera was a gun,” Lee said. “But yet he still reached and grabbed this so called gun (camera) while the photographer was already in his vehicle and smashed his camera.”
The volatile confrontation broke out March 12 in front of Rickels’ residence in the Atlanta suburb. According to an arrest report, Lee planned to do a photo shoot for her marketing portfolio as she gave tours of the home. She hired a makeup artist, a photographer named Dwayne Boddie and about five other people to help with the shoot. The team accompanied her to the Rickels residence.
Rickels’ wife, Melody, told police her real estate agent let her know Lee was coming to host a viewing and she left home to go to the grocery store. She watched the activity on her smart phone through the home’s Ring security cameras and grew concerned when she saw eight to 10 people carrying bags of equipment into the house. They proved to be bags of camera equipment, according to police. But Melody Rickels became suspicious that the viewing was a “scam” and the crew was actually there to rob her home.
She texted her agent and demanded that she call Lee and tell them to leave. Melody Rickels then called her husband and told him the real estate agent in their house was a scammer trying to burglarize them.
Police verified that Lee did have an hour-long showing scheduled that afternoon. Lee said she got the call from the homeowners’ real estate agent letting her know the family wanted them out of the house as her team was setting up for the showcase. She told officers that the camera crew had already set up lighting equipment so it took them some time to pack up their belongings. Most of the crew had already departed by the time Jason Rickels showed up 10 minutes later. Police said Boddie, Lee and a makeup artist named Alexis Brown were the only members of the entourage still on scene when Rickels arrived.
But neighbors who called 911 said there were eight to 10 people fighting in the street when they reported the incident.
Boddie, 32, told police he was in his car readying to leave when the fire chief pulled up in an SUV, blocking him in.
Rickels jumped out of the vehicle and confronted him, asking Boddie, “What are you doing?” according to the police report.
Boddie told Rickels he was there for a photo shoot and showed his camera to prove what he was saying. But Rickels told officers he mistook the camera for a gun, and thought Boddie was pointing it at him. He grabbed the camera, smashed it on the ground and told Boddie, “Not here you’re not,” according to the report. Police noted there was no one to corroborate Boddie’s claim that Rickels made that comment.
But he, Lee and Brown all agreed that Rickels pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot Boddie if he moved. Boddie was unarmed, according to police. His camera and lens were valued at $1,300.
Jason Rickels told police he thought the parties were trespassing on his property. But police indicated Lee was dressed in high heels and a pantsuit and Boddie had a shirt with his photography company’s logo on it.
Rickels claimed “3-6 Black males approached him aggressively,” yelling and cussing at him after he broke Boddie’s camera, the report indicated. One of the men had his hand near his waistband, Rickels said, making him fearful they had a weapon.
Rickels claimed that’s when he drew his gun and threatened to shoot anyone who approached him. One of the neighbors told police they saw one of the contractors retrieve a “long automatic rifle” from their vehicle. Investigators determined that was likely a pole for lighting equipment as no other witnesses, including Rickels, reported seeing anyone else brandish a gun.
Cellphone video from moments after the encounter showed an irate Boddie chiding Rickels for pulling a gun on him and breaking his camera.
“See, this the f–king bulls–t I got to deal with. Cracker motherf–kers,” Boddie fumed. “I’m on the job, motherf–ker pulls a gun on me.”
“Why you got to be racial about it,” Rickels interjected from across the street, standing next to his car.
“Because you pulled a f–king gun on me,” Boddie replied.
“You pulled — I thought you pulled a gun on me. You pointed it right at me,” Rickels told Boddie, pointing at the broken camera on the concrete pavement.
“You pulled a f–king gun on me, jumped in my car and broke my f–king camera,” Boddie tried to explain.
“Well all I know is I walked up, you pointed something at me. I thought it was a gun,” Rickels said. “I was fearing my life, sir. It’s my house.”
Tarrant Mayor Wayman Newton released a statement saying city officials were investigating Rickels’ arrest to determine if he violated any city policies. There were no indications that Rickels was disciplined.
Lee could not be reached for comment Friday.
“This has traumatized me, and has even gave me anxiety,” she said in her statement on social media. “He didn’t even care that I was a woman while he still had his gun pointed at me! But I won’t allow this situation to discourage me but let it encourage me to be the professional realtor that I am!”