Officer describes standoff with armored Hixson neighborhood shooter

Officer describes standoff with armored Hixson neighborhood shooter

January 23rd, 2015 by Kendi A. Rainwater in Local Regional News

A large group of witnesses are sworn as Julia Shields, the woman accused of donning body armor and shooting at neighbors in Hixson just after Christmas, appears before Judge Gary Starnes for a preliminary hearing on Thursday.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga Police Department Officer Ric Engle said the first thing he noticed when he looked at Julia Shields was not that she was a woman, or that she was white, it was that she held a gun -- finger on the trigger.

"We went gun to gun," he testified Thursday in court. "I looked at her, she looked at me."

Engle said he asked Shields, who was dressed in body armor and camouflage, to put down her gun, warning that he would shoot.

Julia Shields, the woman accused of donning body armor and shooting at neighbors in Hixson just after Christmas, appears before Judge Gary Starnes for a preliminary hearing on Thursday.

Julia Shields, the woman accused of donning body...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

He described Shields' initial expression as defiant, "like a teenager." Then her face became blank, as if she wanted to be shot, he said.

Slowly, Shields lowered the Smith & Wesson stainless steel handgun and submitted to arrest.

Engle was one of nine people who testified before Judge Gary Starnes in Hamilton County General Sessions Court about the alleged shooting rampage Shields, 45, executed on Dec. 26 in the Hixson area.

After three hours of testimony, Starnes determined probable cause and bound Shields' case over to a grand jury.

Shields is charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder, six counts of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, felony evading arrest, and felony reckless endangerment.

Originally, she was charged with seven counts of aggravated assault, but one of the charges was dropped on Thursday due to a lack of testimony.

Shields sat in a green chair throughout the hearing, wrists and ankles shackled, looking straight ahead.

She occasionally sipped on water, but her face remained stoic throughout the testimonies.

An 8-year-old boy fidgeted with his hands and leaned against his father as he told the courtroom how Shields pointed a gun at him and two of his neighborhood friends.

He said he and his friends had stopped their bikes at a stop sign by their houses on August Drive in Hixson when Shields pulled up and politely asked them if they had seen a green car.

"We told her, 'No ma'am,'" he said. "Then she pointed a gun at us ... and drove away."

All three boys testified separately, and each told a similar story. Each repeating, "It was really scary!"

Chris Snyder testified that he was standing outside of his house when he saw the boys riding down the hill toward the house.

"My son was screaming and crying," he said.

Snyder told everyone to go inside, and jumped in his car to see if what the boys told him was true. As he drove, he called 911, and within minutes of driving he found Shields sitting in her car.

"Get the [expletive] out of here," Shields yelled at him, he said.

Police told him not to pursue, so he returned home to his family and waited for police.

Phyllis McNutt said Shields shot at her and her 84-year-old mother at an intersection on Cloverdale Drive.

William Mann, who lives in the Hixson area, also testified about Shields firing one shot at him in the Stuart Heights Baptist Church parking lot, where he was meeting friends to play basketball.

He told Starnes that investigators told him that, if he had not had an amp in his car, the bullet would have gone through his back.

Cameron Williams prosecuted for the state, and he questioned Chattanooga police Officer Eiler McCall about his interaction with Shields on that day.

McCall said Shields accused him of profiling her for wearing camouflage, and made an utterance about Jimi Hendrix while riding in the back seat of his car.

"I was under the impression there was a possible [mental] issue going on at the time," he said.

Shields' sister, who did not testify Thursday, said several days ago in a phone interview that angels were protecting both her sister and everyone else involved during the whole encounter.

"I just thank God that she wasn't killed," she said. "I'm sure angels were around the officer to calm him and around her to keep her safe. Because I turned [Shields] over to God five years ago when she stopped talking to me."

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6592.


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