Georgia police: Chattanooga attorney shot after breaking into elderly couple's house, throwing plants at them

Shooting tile
Shooting tile

RINGGOLD, GA. - A Chattanooga attorney was shot Tuesday after police say he broke into an elderly couple's house, threatened them, vowed to leave, returned anyway, climbed on the roof, and threw plants at them.

Matthew Jack Fitzharris, 29, was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated assault against the elderly, two counts of terroristic threats, two counts of entering an automobile or other motor vehicle with intent to commit theft or felony, and burglary, simple assault and criminal damage to property, records show.

Catoosa County clerks said Fitzharris remained in jail Wednesday on a $7,500 bond. That amount only covers the burglary and criminal damage to property charges, clerks said. Fitzharris will appear before a county magistrate today at 1 p.m. to address the other seven charges.

Police say Fitzharris walked into the couple's home Tuesday evening at 1019 Cloud Springs Road, uninvited and carrying a blanket. When Alice Hanshaw, one of the homeowners, asked the stranger to get out, Fitzharris screamed, "I'm not leaving your f****** home," records show.

Hanshaw asked him once more, this time offering an ultimatum: If he didn't leave, she would shoot him.

"You won't shoot me," Fitzharris replied.

"My husband was a Marine, and he will shoot you," she said, handing a firearm to Delbert Hanshaw, records show.

With the gun out, Fitzharris backed down. "I'm sorry, I have the wrong house," he said, and went to leave.

Then, he returned immediately, records show, grabbing the blanket he brought along and dashing outside. He ran up the back stairs, where the Hanshaws' niece stays in an apartment, banging on the door.

Charlotte Lee told police that Fitzharris kept asking for someone she didn't know. She locked him out and called 9-1-1.

Meanwhile, outside on the porch, Fitzharris hurled plants at her relatives as they screamed for him to leave.

Fitzharris threatened to "f*** y'all up." Then he promised to kill himself. Then he tried climbing the roof of a nearby shed. Instead, he bolted down the stairs, tried to hit Alice and Delbert Hanshaw, and ran to the front of the house, records show.

The couple followed him. Still armed, Delbert Hanshaw said, "If you don't leave, I will kill your a**," records show.

"You don't have any bullets," Fitzharris replied.

Delbert Hanshaw fired a shot into the ground. Fitzharris lunged.

In self-defense, Delbert Hanshaw pumped two rounds into Fitzharris' right arm, records show. When police responded around 11:55 p.m., they found Fitzharris in his car. He was loaded into an ambulance, taken to Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton, Ga., and returned to jail with a cast.

Attorney McCracken Poston, who will represent Fitzharris before the magistrate, said his client had just completed a car deal in Georgia. Poston said he wasn't sure if the car deal went bad, or if the shooter - Delbert Hanshaw - was connected to the transaction.

"I don't know the circumstances of his arrest yet," Poston said, "But I do think that a suspected psychological problem may be at play, and we're hoping to get him help as soon as possible."

According to his website, Fitzharris moved to Chattanooga to begin his law practice in fall 2013. Before graduating from Ohio Northern University's law school, he earned degrees in psychology and business adminsitration.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at 423-757-6347 or zpeterson@ Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.

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