Police hunt two suspects in fatal stabbing of veteran during bar brawl

The bar Rumors, where Shawn Russell, 36, was stabbed to death just after 1 a.m. Tuesday, is seen later in the day Tuesday, March 5, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Police are searching for two men after a 36-year-old Army veteran was killed during a bar fight in Hixson early Tuesday morning.

Shawn Russell was stabbed once during the brawl at Rumors Bar on Hixson Pike, according to police. Video surveillance from the bar shows Russell was wielding a pool cue during the fight, which happened just after 1 a.m., said Lt. Glenn Scruggs.

photo Shawn Russell succumbed to his stabbing injuries after a fight at Rumors Bar & Grille.

Police have identified the two men who were apparently involved in the stabbing, but declined to release their names Tuesday. Both men left the bar together in a dark SUV, Scruggs said.

Investigators are working to track both men down, and urged them to turn themselves in Tuesday. Police believe both men live in the Hamilton County area.

Police aren't sure why the brawl inside Rumors started, but said the fight centered on Russell and the two men. Another seven or eight men attempted to prevent or break up the fight, Scruggs said.

"It looked like a typical bar room fight," Scruggs said, although he added that such fights usually don't end with someone dead.

"People get hit with bottles, someone might get stabbed, but very few end up dying in a brawl," he said.

The man who stabbed Russell wasn't a regular at the bar, an employee said Tuesday, and Russell had only come in a handful of times. It doesn't appear that Russell and the men knew each other before the fight, Scruggs said.

Russell served with the U.S. Army Reserve, the regular Army and the Tennessee Army National Guard, according to an Army spokeswoman. He last served in 2008 and was a private.

He was deployed to Kuwait and Iraq for three months in 2003, and was awarded a National Defense Service Medal and an Army Service Ribbon, according to an Army spokeswoman.

Russell is the ninth person to be killed in Chattanooga so far in 2016 and is the first person to be stabbed to death. Seven of this year's homicide victims were shot to death and a woman was strangled.

Police have not arrested any suspects in any of the 2016 homicides. One 19-year-old woman was shot unintentionally, and one man, also 19, was shot to death while trying to rob another man.

In the years since he last served in the military, Russell has run into trouble in Hamilton County.

On June 14, 2011, Russell was operating a sailboat on Chickamauga Lake near the dam and Gold Point Marina. Three other people were onboard, including 37-year-old Jimmy Hess. Hess and Russell both fell overboard, and Hess drowned.

Investigators said at the time they believe the two men were fighting when they went overboard.

Russell was later arrested and charged with boating under the influence and failure to render aid involving a death, although the medical examiner ruled Hess' death an accident, in part because he did not have any signs of trauma on his body.

Investigators took a blood sample from Russell that showed a reading of 0.19 percent alcohol in his system - more than twice the legal limit, which is 0.08 in Tennessee.

Russell pleaded guilty to boating under the influence in 2014, and the failure to render aid charge was dropped as part of the plea, court records show. He was sentenced to 11 months and 29 days of probation.

Scruggs said police have no evidence that the 2011 incident is related to Russell's death.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or [email protected] with tips or story ideas. Follow @ShellyBradbury.