KPD: Doctor arrested on drug, weapons charges after officers find pipes, pot, pills

Michael Lapaglia

Michael LaPaglia

Note: This story was last updated at 12:02 p.m.

An East Tennessee doctor with ties to Oak Ridge and Anderson County was arrested Tuesday morning at his Knoxville home on drug and weapons charges after officers allegedly found about 125 marijuana pipes and bongs, more than two pounds of high-grade marijuana, and pills and vials containing liquids commonly used in hospitals, with the medicines ranging from Valium and amphetamine to oxycodone, propofol, and morphine, authorities said.

The Knoxville Police Department arrested Michael A. LaPaglia, 42, after responding to a report of a domestic dispute at a home on Fox Cove Road about 11:46 p.m. Monday, spokesman Darrell DeBusk said. When police entered the home, they said they noticed a strong marijuana smell throughout the house. They also saw several Mason jars with marijuana residue as well as bongs, or water pipes used to smoke marijuana, according to a KPD statement.

LaPaglia has served as medical director for Anderson County Emergency Medical Services and has worked in the emergency room at Methodist Medical Center in Oak Ridge. He has been named as a defendant in two federal lawsuits over coerced or forced digital rectal examinations, one filed by Felix Charles Booker on March 16, 2011, and the other by Wesley Antwan Gulley on July 19, 2012. A conviction based on the discovery of a five-ounce rock of crack cocaine hidden in Booker’s rectum during one search in August 2010 was recently overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The second case is pending in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

DeBusk said LaPaglia’s Knoxville home was secured and searched early Tuesday morning. During the search, the KPD Repeat Offender Squad found evidence of a past marijuana grow operation in addition to several Mason jars of marijuana, DeBusk said. Officers also noticed several vials of liquid substances commonly dispensed in hospital settings, the statement said.

Here is a list of what officers allegedly found:

  • more than two pounds of high-grade marijuana in various strains;
  • 52 diazepam (Valium) pills;
  • 24 oxycodone pills;
  • 22 amphetamine pills;
  • 11 vials of Xylocaine;
  • seven vials of succinylcholine;
  • two bottles of propofol;
  • two vials each of Marcaine and Lydocaine; and
  • one vial each of bupivacaine, flumazenil, midazolam, fentanyl, and morphine.

DeBusk said officers also found a very large assortment of drug paraphernalia throughout the house, including marijuana grinders, rolling papers, and about 127 glass marijuana pipes and bongs. A loaded Glock handgun was found in the residence, along with two rifles: a Marlin .22 caliber and a Marlin .17 HMR.

LaPaglia was arrested and charged with three counts of manufacturing, delivering, selling, or possessing controlled substances; possessing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony; and possessing drug paraphernalia.

DeBusk said more charges are possible as the investigation continues.

LePaglia has a Sept. 11 arraignment, according to the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.

Early Wednesday morning, Anderson County EMS Director Nathan Sweet confirmed that LaPaglia had been the organization’s medical director but was not an employee.

“We actually contract with Team Health for provisions of a medical director, so he is not actually an employee of ours,” Sweet said. “We have already addressed this with them and have agreed on an interim medical director until we can conduct a more in-depth search for a permanent medical director.”

Sweet said Anderson County EMS could provide more information today (Wednesday).

Crystal Jordan, MMC Marketing and Business Development manager, said LaPaglia is an employee with TeamHealth and is not employed at Methodist Medical Center.

“He has not provided any contract work at Methodist for a couple of months,” she said.

More information will be added as it becomes available.

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