In the hours after a 20-year-old was gunned down on Sheridan Avenue, Chattanooga police responded to three separate calls of shots fired that could be connected to the man's death.
Officers arrested 18-year-old Delvonte White at 9 p.m. with a handgun on North Orchard Knob Avenue following two reports of gunshots nearby on Ocoee Street, according to court records. That's just a few blocks from the site of Monday's homicide. The teenager told police he carried the gun for protection.
That same night, witnesses told police two people knocked on the door of a home on Foust Street and then opened fire, but officers could not find a suspect when they arrived.
Investigators are working under the assumption that the three attempted shootings may be related to the death of Thomas Simmons, 20, who was shot in the chest at the corner of Wilson Street and Sheridan Avenue just before 3 p.m. Monday. Another man, 21-year-old Deonte Evans, was shot in the leg but survived. Police said the incident was likely gang-related.
On Tuesday, Chattanooga Police Department Chief Fred Fletcher warned gang members against retaliatory violence and sent extra patrols into the areas most impacted by Simmons' death.
"Gang members can make the decision to stop or we will stop them, no matter what it takes or how long it takes," Fletcher said. "If you are a member of a gang, listen to me. We will pursue anyone that aims to harm our community."
He said the potential retaliatory violence has the department's "full attention," and people who are known to be violent gang members will receive increased police focus.
Simmons was the first person to be killed in Chattanooga in 2016. A 2014 graduate of Central High School, friends and family said Simmons was a kind person who always kept a smile on his face and wanted to make people laugh.
"His life did not deserve to be taken, and a lot of his family and friends are very hurt from it," said a friend who graduated with him. She asked not to be identified.
Simmons was arrested in December, charged with possession of crack cocaine, and faced two other drug-related charges in Hamilton County General Sessions Court, records show. He was not charged with any violent offenses.
A relative who asked not to be named out of respect for Simmons' family said the 20-year-old was funny and outgoing. He loved football and was happy — really happy — the day he graduated from high school, she said.
"He always was that type of person where when he started something, he had to finish it," she said.
She said Simmons had just landed a job at a gas station and was supposed to start next week.
But he never got the chance.
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