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Sheriff, former SRO named in $3M lawsuit

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By John Barnhart

    Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown and Ernest Grubbs, a former Liberty High School (LHS) school resource officer, are facing a $3 million lawsuit. The suit was filed Friday in Bedford County Circuit Court by Elvin McCombs on behalf of his daughter, Audrey McCombs.
    Grubbs, who was 47 at the time, was arrested on Oct. 19. He was charged with having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student at the high school. He was released on bond and, shortly after, left the area with McCombs. He was arrested in Kentucky, on Nov. 9, after his use of his debit card to buy gas alerted authorities to his whereabouts. Grubbs is currently in the Blue Ridge Regional and is scheduled to be in court on April 9. He is facing 12 felony counts of taking indecent liberties with a child by a person in a custodial relationship.
    The suit alleges that, “Grubbs admitted  to   investigators  that he had an inappropriate relationship with the plaintiff and that things had gone ‘too far.’”
    It furthermore alleges that the, “inappropriate relationship” was initiated by Grubbs and the girl was not of an age to consent to that relationship. The lawsuit states: “Grubbs used his position as a school resource officer to gain access to plaintiff and then used that access to groom her. ... Grubbs methodically groomed plaintiff so that she would believe that he loved her and therefore transition their inappropriate relationship to a physical level.”
    It also alleges that Grubbs sexually assaulted the girl on multiple occasions “both on school grounds and at other locations,” and that the relationship began when the girl was 15 years old.
    The suit alleges that Sheriff Brown “knew or should have known” that Grubbs was engaged in an inappropriate relationship with the girl. It also alleges that Sheriff Brown should have known that Grubbs was “not of the moral character” to be a school resource officer and “not morally capable or competent” to be a deputy.
    The lawsuit states that another deputy found Grubbs and the girl locked in Grubbs’ office with the lights turned off. The lawsuit alleges that the deputy informed his superiors of this, including Sheriff Brown.
    In response to the lawsuit Tuesday, Brown said he could not make any statements that encompass criminal investigations or legal action against the department. “I am not surprised that this action was taken; in fact it was not unexpected,” Brown said in an e-mail. “When official notification is made to the Sheriff’s Office we will forward to risk management in Richmond, through our county attorney, and respond in an appropriate manner when required.”
    He directed additional questions to County Attorney Carl Boggess.
    Boggess responded to a request for information, Tuesday morning, with an e-mail stating that he was unable to comment because he had not yet been served with the lawsuit, or seen a copy.
    Charles Covati and Richard Lawrence, the attorneys representing McCombs, could not be reached for comment prior to press time.