Records: Detentions officer, son had history of conflict leading up to shooting

Pat Wooten

CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. - In the living room of the house at the end of Hood Avenue, Officer Josh Garrison found broken glass on the floor, a cracked mirror, specks of blood on the television and a father and son, separated in two rooms.

Garrison, of the Chickamauga Police Department, had been here before, responding to other domestic violence calls. This time, on Jan. 25, Pat Wooten said his son exploded into rage over something that seemed small. Patrick Lance Wooten, 30, believed his father tinkered with his truck.

Pat said he didn't. Lance called him a liar.

Pat, 58, told the officer his son then threw an oxygen tank into an aquarium, punched a mirror on the wall, tore a computer monitor out of its station and smacked his fist into the television. Pat remained in his chair. Surgeons had just replaced both his hips, he explained.

He said his son, at 6 feet, 1 inches and 220 pounds, tried to punch him. But Pat shielded his face with his forearms. Lance clawed at them, he said, until Pat let his guard down for a second, long enough for his son to sweep a slap across his face. After Pat called 911, he said he heard Lance in the kitchen, breaking something.

For his part, Lance denied attacking Pat. He told the officer he was trying to clean the fish tank when he dropped it, splintering the glass.

"[Lance] Wooten claims that [Pat] Wooten is out to get him," Garrison wrote in his report.

Garrison arrested Lance, charging him with simple battery. Three and a half months later, after Chickamauga police arrested Lance two more times for allegedly hitting his mother and father, Lance and Pat squared off once again, back in the living room.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is handling this case, has not provided much detail about what happened. But just before noon Saturday, according to a news release, Pat shot his son in the chest, killing him.

For decades, Pat Wooten has been an established figure in North Georgia public safety. Before joining the Walker County Jail as a detention officer, he worked as a paramedic and a police officer in Chickamauga and Rossville. He also served as the head of security at Hutcheson Medical Center. His brother, Marty Wooten, was the hospital's EMS supervisor for 25 years, according to his 2011 obituary.

Nevertheless, the GBI charged Pat Wooten with malice murder, and he is being held without bond at the Catoosa County Jail. While the case works through the court system, Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson has suspended him without pay.

Greg Ramey, special agent in charge of the GBI's Region One office in Calhoun, does not think investigators will release much more information about Saturday's shooting prior to court proceedings. This leaves a couple key questions lingering. What did Pat Wooten say happened in the moments before he killed his son? And did his account match what crime scene investigators found inside the living room?

His attorney, Public Defender David Dunn, said he doesn't know Pat Wooten's version of events yet.

"I'm just now delving into that," he said Monday.

Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin did not return a call or email asking whether he will recuse his office from the case, given Pat Wooten's law enforcement history.

If the case goes to trial, Dunn will have a tall stack of Lance Wooten's court records to work with. Including cases this year, police have arrested Lance Wooten on battery charges at least seven times. Most often, his wife was the target. And in court filings, she painted him as paranoid, violent and quick tempered.

He was arrested three times in 2014 on charges that he bit her, spit on her, pulled her hair, twisted her ankle, choked her and poked her in the eye, bursting a blood vessel. In January 2015, his wife said she wanted all the charges dropped.

But she also successfully petitioned for two temporary protection orders. In February 2014, she wrote, Lance Wooten followed her to her job at a Chattanooga restaurant after recently attacking her. She said he bumped his car into hers, and she called 911, but an officer let him go with a ticket.

She said she temporarily moved in with a friend. But, she wrote, "I foolishly went home, and the situation escalated."

She said Lance Wooten accused her of stealing money, hiding a second phone, lingering too late at work and cheating on him. She said he sometimes waited for her outside the restaurant. In August 2016, after police arrested him on charges of pushing his wife to the floor, she took out another restraining order.

"He threatened to blow my head off," she wrote. "Said he will shoot me from 100 yards."

At that point, court filings show, she had moved out of the house on Hood Avenue, where Lance Wooten stayed.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.