Three Chattanooga homicides in five-day span

Chattanooga Police investigators work a homicide in College Hill Courts on April 15, 2015.


2015: 9, including one justified homicide 2014: 9 2013: 10 YEAR-TO-DATE NON-FATAL SHOOTINGS 2015: 26 2014: 29 Source: Chattanooga Police Department, Times Free Press archives


Robert Rutledge, 66 -- "He was a great man. We talked often at my job. This man would give you his last dime if you needed it. He was so against gang violence and abuse of all kinds. He would have protected anyone from harm. I considered him a great friend." -- LeeAnn Swindle Kentrell Provens, 16 -- "Everyone keeps on coming up to me and saying, 'I just seen him and he gave me a hug. He gave me a hug.' And you know he just loved hugging. He hugged me everyday." -- Theresa Provens Rosa Chatman, 56 -- "She had an outgoing personality. She never met a stranger. Everyone she met she was friends with her." -- Roshandra Stallworth Source: Times Free Press reports

Robert Rutledge protected. Kentrell Provens hugged. Rosa Chatman danced.

And this week, Rutledge died, Provens died and Chatman died.

All three were killed during a violent week for the city, with three homicides in a five-day span from Saturday to Wednesday.

Rutledge, 66, was found dead in his apartment on Tunnel Boulevard on Saturday. Provens, 16, was shot once in the chest while walking on North Germantown Road on Sunday and Chatman, 56, was killed in her apartment in College Hill Courts on Wednesday.

The week's killings bring the total number of homicides in the city to nine this year -- including one homicide that police say was justifiable self-defense.

All the homicide victims were black. Seven men and two women have been killed, and the median age of the victims is 20. Police have arrested suspects in five cases and cleared one case by ruling it as justified. Three homicides -- two from this week and one from January -- are unsolved.

Arica Lee, who lives right across from the apartment where Chatman was killed in College Hill Courts, said she's fed up with the violence. She still has a bullet hole in her front door from the last time someone started shooting.

"There's been so much going on right here," she said. "We've been getting a lot of crazy stuff. And it's not just here. It's all over. I'm ready to leave. It's just crazy."

Yet while neighbors like Lee feel the city's crime is worsening, police say it's actually flat -- this time last year, there had also been nine homicides. And while there have been 26 nonfatal shootings this year, there were 29 at this point last year.

"We did have a bad week for the citizens of Chattanooga," said Lt. Glenn Scruggs, who heads major crimes for the Chattanooga Police Department. "We had three losses of life, and that's bad."

But, he added, the week's homicides are not connected to each other and don't represent a growing trend of violent crime.

"Those three [incidents] were in separate parts of town, separate neighborhoods and each case had its own specific circumstances that aren't interchangeable," he said. "I don't think they reflect the overall safety of the city."

And while there is a definite correlation between violence and warmer weather -- as people get out of the house and are more likely to interact with each other -- Scruggs said he doesn't believe the week's temperatures played a part in these homicides, especially since two victims were found in their own homes.

"That goes directly against the trend," he said.

So far, only one of the week's homicides has been directly linked to gang members. The two men arrested in Rutledge's death -- Gary Toney Jr., 19, and Javonte Davis, 17 -- are both validated members of the Gangster Disciples, said Lt. Tammy Cook.

Police apprehended the men after they fled from officers in Rutledge's stolen truck and fired at least 11 rounds at a detective. Two innocent bystanders were injured in the shootout. After the arrests, police discovered that Davis had been charged with first-degree murder last year in juvenile court and was out on bond.

"To pick up one of those suspects who had been out on bond for being accused of doing the exact same thing a year ago is huge," Cook said.

She added that investigators have solid information in Chatman's death but still need help from the public to identify the shooter in Provens' death.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or with tips or story ideas.