Pastor wants snakes back from Tennessee

By: Angela Sparkman Email
By: Angela Sparkman Email

MIDDLESBORO, Ky. (WYMT) - A Bell County Pastor is fighting to get snakes used in worship services back from Tennessee.

Knoxville Police confiscated Jamie Coots' snakes during a traffic stop.

Pastor Gregory Coots, known as Jamie, handles snakes as part of worship services at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church in Middlesboro.

On January 31st, he went to Alabama and spent $800 on five new snakes. While driving home, a Knoxville police officer stopped him for dark window tint and saw the snakes in the vehicle. Later, the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency came to the traffic stop.

"He wanted to know if I had any documentation and I told him no. He came back a few minutes later and said he was going to take the snakes and containers," said Coots.

TWRA officials confiscated the snakes.

"It's really frustrating to say the least," says Coots.

TWRA officials told us they could not comment and referred us to the Knox County, Tennessee District Attorney's office. Officials there could only say Coots is charged with illegal possession of wildlife and illegal transportation of wildlife.

Coots says the three rattlesnakes and two copperheads are now at a zoo in Sevierville, TN, and he is fighting to get them back.

"Years we've traveled and went and got them and never anything, I don't know," he said.

Coots says he can replace the snakes but he wants the boxes the snakes were in back. He says they have sentimental value.

"One means more to me more than a lot of worldly possessions. I've had it a long time. The other three, I feel it's my property," Coots said.

A court hearing is scheduled in Knoxville on February 25th.

Back in 2008, Coots was charged in Kentucky for illegally possessing wildlife. He paid a fine and was on probation. Coots told us he now has a permit for the snakes in Bell County. So far, we have not been able to speak with Fish and Wildlife officials to verify that.

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