TBI investigating fatal shooting by Grundy County deputy

Man killed allegedly armed with pellet rifle

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is investigating a shooting by a Grundy County sheriff's deputy in Gruetli-Laager that resulted in the death of a man armed with what was described as a pellet rifle he was allegedly aiming at passing cars.

The shooting occurred around 10 p.m. CDT Wednesday, according to a TBI news release. The state agency was asked to investigate by 12th Judicial District Attorney General Courtney Lynch.

Lynch said Thursday in an email she couldn't offer further details and deferred to the TBI for comment. Officials said Sheriff Heath Gunter was on patrol Thursday and could not be reached by phone.

(READ MORE: Suspect shot, killed in Marion County police pursuit)

Preliminary information indicates Grundy County deputies responded to the 5800 block of Colony Road in Gruetli-Laager after receiving reports of a man with a rifle pointing it at passing vehicles, TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said Thursday in the release. The 5800 block area of Colony Road -- tree-lined and lightly populated -- is within a mile of Swiss Memorial Elementary School and Gruetli-Laager Recreation Park.

"When they arrived, deputies encountered a man, later identified as Joe Pickett, 64, who was carrying what was later identified to be a pellet rifle," DeVine said. "Deputies reported they gave verbal commands for Pickett to drop the rifle, but instead, Pickett pointed it at them. One deputy subsequently fired upon Pickett, striking him. Medics transported Pickett to a nearby hospital, where he died."

(READ MORE: Former Grundy County deputy found guilty in pursuit shooting death)

The deputies at the scene were uninjured, he said. They have not been identified.

DeVine said the TBI is working to independently determine the series of events leading up to the fatal shooting, including collecting evidence and conducting interviews. Investigative findings will be handed over to the District Attorney's Office for her further review and consideration.

The TBI acts solely as fact-finders in its cases and does not determine whether the actions of an officer were justified in these types of matters, DeVine said. That decision rests with the district attorney requesting TBI's involvement.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.

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