Chapel Hill firefighter on leave following charges that he gave obscene material to minor

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Police charged a Chapel Hill firefighter on Tuesday with providing obscene material to a child under the age of 16.

Jaime Ernesto Palacios, 53, was arrested during a traffic stop at the intersection of Homestead and High School roads in Chapel Hill. He was arrested on an outstanding warrant for three felony counts of dissemination of obscene material to a minor (under 16), a police report shows.

Palacios, an employee with the Chapel Hill Fire Department, was released from the Orange County Jail after posting a $45,000 secured bond following his first appearance Wednesday in an Orange County courtroom. He is scheduled to appear in court again Jan. 17.

Palacios was hired by the town of Chapel Hill in March 2005, initially as a Chapel Hill Transit employee, public safety spokesman Ran Northam said.

Jaime Palacios.jpg
Jaime Palacios Chapel Hill Police Department Contributed

A 2006 Town Talk employee newsletter noted that a resident had recognized Palacios, then a bus driver, for going “beyond the call of duty” by helping her with a dead car battery.

Palacios was hired as a firefighter with the Chapel Hill Fire Department in 2007, Northam said. He noted that Palacios is now on administrative leave without pay pending an independent internal investigation.

The State Bureau of Investigation is participating in the criminal investigation, he said. No additional information about the alleged crimes is available at this time, he said.

Northam said he doesn’t think the alleged victim was a student at Chapel Hill High School, which is located less than a quarter-mile from where police stopped Palacios.

“I know that he was en route to work,” Northam said. “I don’t think there’s any connection you can make with him being near the high school.”

Tammy Grubb has written about Orange County’s politics, people and government since 2010. She is a UNC-Chapel Hill alumna and has lived and worked in the Triangle for over 25 years.