Wife recalls moments before husband killed by police

Officers investigate the scene Wednesday, January 18, 2017 where a suspect was fatally shot by Hamilton County deputies after a vehicle pursuit ended Tuesday night at the 200 block of Sequoyah-Access Road in Soddy-Daisy.
photo Christopher Dalton Sexton, 29, was shot and killed by Hamilton County Sheriff's deputies on Jan. 17, 2017.

The last phone call Christopher Dalton Sexton made was one minute and 19 seconds long.

"And he was talking to me just like I'm talking to you," his wife, Lindsay Sexton, said earlier this month. "He said, 'Well, they just blew my tires out.' I said, 'They just need you to pull over, please pull over.' And he said, 'They're hitting my truck.' And I said, 'Chris, they just want you to pull over.'"

At the time, Lindsay Sexton had no idea where her husband was. For the last few hours, he had criss-crossed Hamilton and Sequatchie counties, evading a trail of police cruisers and giving her manic updates over the phone. Bipolar disorder made him swing in and out of violent, depressive cycles, particularly when he didn't take his medication. On Jan. 17, officers knew he was carrying a loaded Glock and wanted to hurt himself.

The chase ended near the entrance of a Soddy-Daisy strip mall on Sequoyah Access Road. When Sexton got out of his pickup with a weapon pointed at officers, Hamilton County deputies shot the 29-year-old at least 15 times, records show.

Lindsay Sexton could hear officers yelling in the background at 6:39 p.m. Before the gunshots, she threw her phone - she knew what was about to happen.

Sitting in their Sale Creek home earlier this month, near the hole Christopher Sexton punched in a wall and surrounded by gifts he spent hours making for her, Lindsay Sexton never shied away from speaking about her husband's behavior.

Court records show Christopher Sexton had a history of violence against his wife of 10 years. That January afternoon, she had called police because he violated an order of protection by coming to their home with a gun. In his death, though, Lindsay Sexton wants people to understand the demons that taunted her husband's mind, and the angels he brought into the world.

"Our daughters play softball, and he always made sure our oldest had the best bat on the market," she said. "With our son, he was always at football practice. When he worked in Mississippi, Chris welded on the shipyard and worked second shift. He would get off between 1 or 2 in the morning and drive straight through - about six hours - to make it to football games on time."

Lindsay and Christopher met through her cousin when she was 16 years old. He was 14, a Commerce, Ga., boy who loved motorbikes and home-cooked meals. He confided in her about troubles at home; she invited him to Easter supper at her grandmother's house. After turning him down for four years, Lindsay finally agreed to dinner at Olive Garden when she was 20. "Because I cleaned my plate," he knew she was the one. They exchanged vows in a Georgia chapel in 2007.

But that same year, he assaulted her, records show. Christopher Sexton often said he struggled with severe depression, like his father. "The first time he remembered seeing him was in a casket at age 17," Lindsay Sexton said. "And that was really hard on him."

The Times Free Press tried to reach other members of Sexton's family but was unsuccessful.

In 2011, Christopher Sexton was diagnosed with bipolar type II disorder. But he took his medication only intermittently, frustrated that he didn't feel better, happier, different. Providing for his children, though, momentarily lifted the curtain on the disease, Lindsay Sexton said.

When the family visited him in Mississippi, he bought the kids pillows of their favorite movie characters. When his son needed a haircut for the first day of kindergarten, boy and dad returned home with matching mohawks. During a family vacation in 2016 to Disneyland, they got off at the wrong stop and were stranded on an island until the next ferry came. Instead of fuming, Sexton gathered the family together for a mess-up picture. "This is our oopsie shot," he joked.

In early January when she learned he'd had an affair, Lindsay Sexton said she'd reached her breaking point. She asked for a divorce. A few days later, she filed an order of protection after Christopher took a gun from the home. The night before, he had threatened to hurt himself and she was worried. A judge granted the order Jan. 6, and the couple didn't talk until their next hearing on Jan. 17.

After the hearing, where her attorney officially served him with the divorce papers, Christopher Sexton drove to her cousin's house. "That was his very best friend," she said. When her cousin wasn't there, he started calling her around 4:55 p.m. "Can I please talk to you?" Lindsay Sexton recalled him saying.

"I have nothing to say," she replied.

He kept calling, and she called the sheriff's office: "I need to have an officer come out. My husband's calling me against the order of protection."

Then she heard his truck roll up. "Oh, God, he's here," she told the dispatcher. The dispatcher told her to grab her children and barricade themselves in the back bedroom, she remembered. He knocked on the windows. He called her name, very calmly, asking her to open the door.

"Everything in me thinks: Should I have opened that door? Could I have calmed him down? What if I opened it and he took all of us? I don't know what he wanted, I don't know if he had the gun," Lindsay Sexton said. "Within a couple of seconds, he was in the truck, leaving."

At 5:06 p.m., he sent a text message: "Please let me say goodbye to my son."

Two minutes later, another text: "I love you so much, why can't you just see that."

At 5:15: "Lindsay this will be the last time you ever have a chance to talk to me - I don't know what I'm doing."

When Christopher Sexton called a few minutes later, Lindsay Sexton handed the phone to an officer who had recently arrived at her house. "Pull over, let's work this out," the officer suggested.

"I assume that's when Chris said, 'I'm going to kill myself,'" she said. "Because the officer then got on his radio and said, 'He has a fully loaded Glock and he's going to use it.'"

The next time he called, she asked the officer if she could try speaking with Christopher. If anyone could calm him, it was her. "'Who is this?' he asked. I said, 'It's your wife. What are you doing?' He started crying and said, 'Lindsay, I'm going to die tonight.'"

She begged him to pull over, to go to a hospital. She promised to drop the order and cancel the divorce if he would get help. The officer said he would escort her to the hospital. Christopher Sexton screamed that everyone was lying. Another 35 minutes passed as more law enforcement agencies joined the highway chase.

"Where's the closest hospital?" Lindsay Sexton asked him on the phone. Erlanger North, he replied, where her mom worked. "I'll grab my shoes," she said. "They won't take you into custody until you get a mental health assessment."

Then he flipped.

"Stop talking calm to me!" she remembered him screaming into the phone. The service cut out before he called one more time at 6:39 p.m.

Eleven minutes later, he was pronounced dead.

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