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Chattanooga Police investigate the scene of the cities first homicide of the year Monday afternoon in the 1800 block of Wilson Street.
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Chattanooga police hold a person in custody near the intersection of Orchard Knob and Citico Avenues on Monday. Two people were shot and one of those was killed a few blocks away on Sheridan Avenue.
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Two people were shot at 1300 Sheridan Avenue in Chattanooga. One died.
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Chattanooga police look at a gun and ammunition clip near the scene of a deadly shooting Monday near the intersection of Orchard Knob and Citico Avenues.

A scream cut through the thick crowd of people talking quietly just outside the crime tape on Sheridan Avenue on Monday afternoon.

A woman stumbled through the bystanders, shouting with panic and pain.

"Where the [expletive] is my dad?" she shouted. "Don't touch me. Don't touch me."

But then she collapsed into a man's arms and he supported her, easing closer to the yellow tape, closer to the body covered by white sheet in the street beyond.

The officers couldn't tell her who the body on the pavement was. They hadn't made an official identification. So the woman, who did not give her name, waited at the tape, on and off the phone, shaking. At one point, she dropped to her knees and cried.

Then they took the body away in a black bag and officers sent the woman to the Hamilton County Medical Examiner's office for the official word.

The victim, identified as 20-year-old Thomas Simmons, was the first person shot to death in Chattanooga in 2016. His death marks the end of a 24-day stretch with no homicides in the city — the longest stretch at the start of a new year since at least 2011.

Simmons was shot in the chest at the corner of Sheridan Avenue and Wilson Street in East Chattanooga just before 3 p.m. Monday. A second man, 21-year-old Deonte Evans, was shot in the leg but is expected to survive, police said Monday.

Witnesses said the shooter was on foot when he opened fire. Police Chief Fred Fletcher said the suspect fired multiple times. At least 15 yellow cones marked evidence around the body.

The shooting appears to be gang-related, Fletcher said.

"Certainly the nature of it, and the preliminary information we received, indicated it was very likely gang-related," he said.

Officers descended on the street almost immediately after the shooting, Fletcher added, and police canvassed the area for the suspect. Officers had not charged anyone with the crime by Monday evening.

A large crowd gathered around the crime scene as police flooded the neighborhood Monday. In the warm afternoon sun, adults shook their heads and crossed their arms. Teenagers formed tight circles and peered at the crime scene truck. Elementary-aged kids walked past, on their way home from school, toting oversized backpacks.

"It's just so sad how these young folks are losing their lives," said neighbor Barbbina Simmons. "Another young man gone. He had his whole life ahead of him and he just gone. Just gone."

She said gunshots are so common on her street she no longer thinks twice when she hears them. In the last five years, four other people have been killed within two blocks of Monday's homicide, according to The Toll, a database of homicides maintained by the Times Free Press.

In 2013, Lucius Moss, 36, was stabbed to death at 1802 Wilcox Blvd. and Ollie Peters, 15, was shot to death at 1206 Sheridan Ave. Steve Mosley, 38, was shot to death in 2012 on North Hawthorne Street, and Ronald Blackmon Jr., 25, was shot to death at 1208 Sheridan Ave. in 2011.

There have been seven shootings in Chattanooga so far this year. At this point last year, there had been nine, as well as three homicides, according to police. The 24-day stretch this year without a homicide was by far the longest the city had gone without a homicide at the start of new year since at least 2011 — previously, the longest stretch was nine days in 2013.

"It's tragic no matter how long we go," Fletcher said. "No matter what the background is. Nobody should have their kids hearing or seeing gunshots in their neighborhood. Whether it is 16 days or 25 days or 365 days there is never a time span long enough to justify losing a family member."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com with tips or story ideas. Follow @ShellyBradbury.

This story updated on Jan. 26 to correct the age of the victim. Chattanooga police initially released the wrong age.

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