Homicide victim believed to have been set up in drug deal; police looking for more suspects

Police arrest homicide suspect

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Police have arrested one suspect and are looking for others in connection to the December homicide of 20-year-old Evan Derry, who police say was killed in a drug deal-turned-robbery set up by the suspect.

Officers were dispatched to the 7600 block of North Bishop Drive on Dec. 28 on a report of shots fired and found a black Chevrolet Tahoe wrecked and turned over in the roadway. Derry, the driver, was inside, suffering from a gunshot wound to the right side of his head, according to court documents. He died from his injuries shortly after at a local hospital.

A preliminary investigation by police found there had been a passenger, Baxter McCurry, in the car and the pair had driven to the scene to give 16 pounds of marijuana to another man, 22-year-old Terrence Lewis. Lewis was supposed to sell the drugs to take care of a debt he owed Derry.

Lewis got into the back seat of the car and asked Derry to back up to his own car so he could get something he forgot in it. When Derry did so, Lewis pulled out a can of pepper spray and sprayed both Derry and McCurry.

McCurry jumped out of the car to flee and said he saw three men nearby with guns. He ran and heard several gunshots. Derry also tried to flee in his car, but he crashed into a tree on the side of the road.

A witness at the scene saw a man shoot at the car multiple times as it was fleeing and watched as the suspect got into a car matching the description of Lewis' vehicle. The suspect drove over to the victim's car, got out and went to the driver's side, but the witness couldn't see what he did there.

McCurry told police there had been 16 pounds of marijuana in the car, but when investigators inventoried the car, the suitcase that supposedly contained the drugs was missing. Police did find several bags of marijuana in a duffel bag, but the rest is believed to have been taken by the suspects.

Lewis told police during an interview Friday morning that he communicated with the victims via text messages to set up the deal and confirmed he sprayed both the driver and passenger with pepper spray. He was charged with especially aggravated robbery and criminal homicide. His bond has been set at $600,000.

"No matter what the circumstances are or the victim's background, every life is important to us and every person killed has friends and family members that care about them," said Victor Miller, supervisor for the Chattanooga Police Department homicide unit.

"The remaining suspects are described only as black males at this point. The investigation continues, although we have one arrest, we will continue to investigate and attempt to find out who the additional suspects are."

He said witnesses and community members provided information to officers at the scene and in the aftermath of the shooting through the homicide tip line which was opened in June. Miller said police have received significantly helpful information in approximately nine cases through the phone line, helping to boost the department's homicide clearance rate to 70 percent in 2017 - an increase of 30 percent from 2016.

"Most important in this is our community relationships which have allowed our homicide investigators to get the information that they need from community members and we appreciate that and also the hard work and dedication of the homicide unit investigators," he said.

Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to call the homicide tip line at 423-643-5100, which is open 24 hours a day. Callers can remain anonymous.