Chop shop probe led to fatal shooting

Chop shop probe led to fatal shooting

December 29th, 2011 by Ben Benton in News

McMinn County authorities say the man shot to death by sheriff's deputies Monday was the target of a chop shop investigation going back to July.

Allan Shepherd, 37, was killed Monday after he fled out the back of his County Road 250 home when two deputies tried to serve warrants on him and his 34-year-old wife, Leah, Sheriff Joe Guy said. The warrants charged the couple with theft over $60,000 and owning or operating a chop shop.

A chop shop is an illegal business that takes stolen cars, disassembles them and sells the parts.

On Wednesday, Guy identified the officers involved as Sgt. Mike Hayes and Deputy Blake Witt, both of whom are on paid administrative leave while the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probes the shooting, which is standard practice in such cases.

Witt fired the fatal shot, while Hayes was at the scene but did not fire, Guy said.

The state's investigation is ongoing and it is unknown when it will be complete, TBI Special Agent in Charge Jason Locke said Wednesday. An autopsy is being performed.

"It is difficult to put a timeline on this or any other type of investigation while it is still in its early stages," Locke said.

Deputies went to the Shepherds' home in July while investigating a theft tip and were talking to Leah Shepherd when they spotted vehicles and a tractor that matched descriptions of reported stolen property, Guy said.

The officers returned with a search warrant and recovered almost $250,000 worth of stolen property that included vehicles, firearms, car tags, car airbags and many smaller items, he said.

When Witt and Hayes went to the Shepherd home Monday to serve the warrants, Allan Shepherd fled on foot with extra ammunition and two handguns, one of which he attempted to use against Witt in a wooded area about a quarter-mile from the home, Guy said. Witt fired in response, killing Shepherd, he said.

Shepherd was home Monday with the couple's three juvenile children when officers arrived, Guy said. Leah Shepherd was not home initially but arrived just as her husband ran out the back door, he said.

Shepherd's relatives "seem at this point to be understanding," Guy said. "It's just a tragic situation and his decisions led to the tragic turn of events."

The sheriff said Allan Shepherd's last run-in with the law was in 2002 when he was arrested in connection with a child support case.

Witt and Hayes are "doing as well as can be expected" and counseling is being provided, Guy said.

Witt, who was named McMinn's officer of the year this year, has been on the force for about five years, previously working for the Charleston Police Department in Bradley County before joining the McMinn department in September 2010, Guy said.

Hayes is a 16-year law enforcement veteran, the sheriff said.