published Monday, March 29th, 2010

Victims, police describe shooting

by Chris Carroll
Audio clip

Sally Robinson

A day after being shot in the thigh as he hustled out of Coolidge Park, 18 year-old Kevin Tucker knows what he would say to the gunman.

"If you've got somebody to shoot, shoot him," he said. "But open your eyes when you're shooting."

Mr. Tucker said he was hit by a random bullet as police forced hundreds of young people to leave Coolidge Park on Saturday and officers tried to control "unruly behavior."

"There were fights breaking out, people yelling back and forth," said Lt. Kim Noorbergen, spokeswoman for Chattanooga police. "Officers said there was blue and there was red there (reference to gang activity)."

As the crowd collected on River Street, bullets wounded five people in their legs. None of the injuries was life-threatening.

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Police charged Anthony Frieson, 18, and Taurean Patillo, 18. Mr. Frieson was charged with five counts of attempted first-degree murder, five counts of aggravated assault and one count of felony reckless endangerment. Mr. Patillo was charged with five counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and unlawful possession of a weapon. A juvenile also was charged in the incident.

Text message

Several witnesses said a mass text message encouraged teenagers to meet at the park because it was a "sunny day outside," Mr. Tucker said. The atmosphere changed when 26 Chattanooga police units arrived to clear the growing cluster. Police said gang activity was suspected.

"You don't know who has a gun and who doesn't have a gun," Lt. Noorbergen said. "We're trying to calm people down and get them out. It's very unruly, and it's very unsafe at that time."

But witnesses remember events differently. Mr. Tucker said the event was "people just having fun in the park," adding he saw babies and small children around the area. He said police started using pepper spray to break up the party.

"There wasn't nobody fighting or nothing -- once they started with the Mace, everybody got rowdy," he said.

That's when Mr. Tucker bolted for his car, which was across from where police were guiding people. He felt a sting before looking down.

"I thought I was hallucinating, then I happened to see the blood running down my leg," Mr. Tucker said.

Lt. Noorbergen said an officer stood four feet from one of the victims as he was shot. She said fights led to police presence.

"This is not the police's fault," she said. "This goes back to the people who are coming to the park who are creating these disturbances."

Police said Saturday's shooting could be related to a smaller incident that happened the day before. Just before 7:30 p.m. Friday, Marquees McReynolds, 18, and a 15-year-old black boy were shot at 1953 Southern St., Lt. Noorbergen said.

Lt. Noorbergen said police thought Saturday's shooting could have been a gang-organized retaliation for Friday's shooting. But one of the Coolidge Park victims, who asked not to be identified, wasn't so sure.

"If it was gang-related and that bullet was meant for me, I probably would have been the only person who got shot," said the victim, who admitted being affiliated with a gang. "The only reason I went out is because I know the dude I went out with isn't going to get me in trouble. He doesn't have any enemies."

City's response

Lt. Noorbergen said it was "unfortunate" that Saturday night's incident happened at Coolidge Park, but she said the blame shouldn't rest with the police department.

"We're putting people in jail," she said. "We can't control people gathering in an area. This is up to the parents to make sure their children are in a safe place."

Lt. Noorbergen said park visitors should remain vigilant, despite the area's serene landscape and regular police patrol.

"We'd like to think that it is a safe area," she said.

Chattanooga City Councilwoman Sally Robinson, who represents North Chattanooga and Coolidge Park, advocated a quick response to violence.

"These people are driven by hatred for each other," she said. "It's being done by a tiny minority of troublemakers. We know who they are, and we need to make life very hard for them."

Mayor Ron Littlefield did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

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fftspam said...

How about getting the Chief's cell phone record and find out where he was this night.

March 29, 2010 at 2:08 a.m.
cjones72 said...

Since when is it against the law 2 congregate in a park . would it be against the law if it was a bunch of white people and by the way im white . stupid stuff like this is where all the hatred towards cops come from .

March 29, 2010 at 8:27 a.m.
diamondr54 said...

cjones72 You were not there or in the area. It was a situation that was getting out of control. People got shot and you want to say it was a outing in the park for young people. GET REAL! The police did an outstanding job controling the situation. Gangs in the park. Just what we need.

March 29, 2010 at 8:39 a.m.
DavidAnthony said...

LOL! That is super funny. From what it sounds like the police did start the mace a little to soon. This is why I want to be allowed to carry in the park. Not because it is sunny outside, but because they always carry regardless of the signs you put up. I always carry and regard the signs you put up. It is just a shame I bear the burden of responsibility while intending to protect my family and me. Gangs in the park, thats a good reason to take the sign down to those that bear the same burden. Looks like your friendly neighborhood gangs didnt care.

March 29, 2010 at 9:58 a.m.
brandon83 said...

I thought guns were outlawed in Coolidge Park?

March 29, 2010 at 10:14 a.m.

It would be nice if we could get these outlaw children out of the public areas and back into the private malls.

The mall owners know how to handle these kids....

March 29, 2010 at 10:35 a.m.
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