Details limited as neighbors discuss Monday's officer-involved shooting

Details limited as neighbors discuss Monday's officer-involved shooting

August 16th, 2017 by Emmett Gienapp in Local Regional News

Chattanooga police officers respond to an officer-involved shooting Monday, Aug. 14, on the 5000 block of Rossville Boulevard.

Photo by Rosana Hughes /Times Free Press.

Gallery: Hamilton County Sheriff's Office probes Chattanooga police officer-involved shooting

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Details surrounding an officer-involved shooting that sent one man to the hospital on Monday remain scarce as the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office investigates and residents speculate about the incident.

Police said an officer shot a suspect in the 5000 block of Rossville Boulevard, but the suspect managed to evade police. He was located at an East Ridge home in the 800 block of South Seminole Drive and taken to a hospital, where he is being treated for his injuries.

The man has not been publicly identified by police.

Asked about the circumstances of the shooting and the encounter that led up to it, a police spokeswoman and a spokesman for the sheriff's office said more information about the incident would be limited while the investigation continues.

"Unfortunately, at this time, I cannot answer any of your questions as this is a very active and ongoing investigation," Matt Lea, spokesman for the sheriff's office, wrote in an email. "This investigation will most likely take time and details will be limited."

The sheriff's office took over the investigation at the request of Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston.

"Whenever there's an officer-involved shooting, the [district attorney] requests an outside agency investigate," said Melydia Clewell, spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.

David Roddy, who awaits approval as Chattanooga's police chief, said Monday that all officers involved in the incident are on paid administrative leave, per department policy.

Chattanooga has seen four officer-involved shootings since Jan. 1, 2015, two of which were fatal.

The person most recently killed by Chattanooga police was Daniel Hendrix, who was shot to death in March. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is still investigating that incident.

The Times Free Press previously reported that Hendrix, a corrections deputy with the sheriff's office, was celebrating with two off-duty female police officers at a home in the 300 block of Shawnee Trail the night he was shot.

For reasons still unclear, he became "enraged," picked up a personal firearm and began to threaten the women, said Josh DeVine, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokesman.

Both women fled the home and one called 911. Shortly after, two more Chattanooga police officers arrived and found Hendrix holding the weapon, but he refused to comply with verbal commands to drop it and one of the responding officers fired at him at least four times.

Two years before Hendrix was killed, Javario Eagle was fatally shot by police. Police said Eagle had a knife and a handgun and at one point was carrying around his 4-year-old daughter, who was endangered during the ordeal.

Neighbors on South Seminole Drive who came home to almost a dozen police cars on their block Monday afternoon said the neighborhood is typically quiet, but they weren't necessarily surprised by the incident.

Austin Johnson said the shooting is just the latest suffered by a city beleaguered with violence.

"It's pretty normal, with all the problems we're seeing," he said. "All this gang activity, all the homicides that have been going on, it doesn't even surprise me anymore. It seems like an ordinary day out here."

His grandmother, Wanda Vaughn, said the street was relatively quiet and she didn't even know police were on scene until her husband came in from work around 5:15 p.m. and mentioned them to her. She said they could see flashing blue lights from her home about 50 yards away.

"We didn't see anything but the cops and the ambulance with its back doors open," she said. "I was just glad they weren't at my house."

Donna Johnston, one of the neighbors across the street from the house where the suspect was found, said some of the activity there over the last several months had been concerning. She and her husband suspected drugs were being sold there.

"We've witnessed a lot of exchanges and people tooting the horn, looking for curbside service," she said. "We were gone to eat and when we came up through here and saw all the police cars we thought it was a drug bust. When we saw the police tape we knew it was a different story."

She said she didn't know the person who was shot, but she had met some of the people who lived there. On Monday, she let police take her deck furniture across the street for the neighbors to sit on while authorities handled the situation.

"We let them have some of our lounge chairs so the girls didn't have to sit in the grass," she said. "It's just been a mess since they've been over there. Fussing and fighting and police calling."

Near the scene on Rossville Boulevard, the shooting came as even less of a surprise for residents and workers there who said they see it all the time. Howard Stein said he wouldn't travel through the area if it weren't the fastest way to get to and from work.

"All you have to do is look around," he said. "I wish it weren't so, but a shooting here or pretty much anyplace else in the city is just the new normal."

Gwendolyn Jones, an employee at a business near the scene, said it's not typical to see a shooting in the area, but she sees plenty of other petty crimes on a near-daily basis.

"It's terrible. We have to call the police so much down here," she said.

She said the crime rate adversely affects her own sense of safety.

"I have to work here. They call it 'Ross Vegas,'" she said.

Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.