published Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Chattanooga man charged in convenience store fatal shooting

A Hamilton County grand jury indicted a man Thursday accused of shooting a man to death inside a convenience store in May.

Chattanooga Police Department investigators identified 18-year-old Antonio Dejong Espey as the gunman who opened fire inside the Big K convenience store at 909 Dodson Ave. He faces a charge of first-degree murder.

Herbert Strickland, 53, used his body to shield a woman and was shot in the back of the head, once in face, once in his left arm and once in his hip, according to the medical examiner’s report.

The store’s surveillance footage shows Espey committing the crime in front of store clerks and customers, according to authorities. When Espey declined to cooperate with investigators in interviews, the store’s footage was sent off to the FBI where facial recognition technology was used to positively identify him, authorities said.

Espey remains in Hamilton County Jail on a $200,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear before Criminal Court Judge Don Poole Oct. 4.

Strickland’s homicide is one 20 homicides in the city of Chattanooga this year. His death is one of 18 shooting deaths this year. So far, there have been 57 people reported injured in shootings this year, according to records kept by the Times Free Press.

Strickland’s daughter, Meco Siler, was also slain this year on Jan. 6.

Siler’s body was found by a housekeeper inside a 20th Street hotel. She sustained 36 stab wounds to her neck and shoulder and a dozen cuts to her hands, the medical examiner’s report found.

A few days later police arrested 29-year-old Brandon Eugene Russell on a felony murder charge in connection with her death. His next court date is scheduled for Oct. 13 before Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern.

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