"This has just shocked anybody who has known him," said attorney Mark Whittenburg, who practiced for years with Glenn Ray Copeland. "That's all anybody was talking about at the courthouse this morning."
Deputies from the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office raced to 9012 Jennifer Lane around noon Sunday and found Glenn Copeland, 82, suffering from a gunshot wound. He was transported to Erlanger hospital and died there. Meanwhile, the suspect in the shooting, his son, Steven Dale Copeland, 57, was found dead at nearby 9015 Jennifer Lane. Though he died from an apparent gunshot wound, deputies could not say Monday whether it was self-inflicted, and released no motive for the slaying.
"We are waiting on results from the medical examiner's office before we can release anything else," Chief Deputy Allen Branum wrote in an email. "I will release the information as soon as it is available to us."
The news of Glenn Copeland's death startled many lawyers in town who knew him.
"Glenn and I were in law school together, even though he was about eight years ahead of me," said longtime defense attorney Jerry Summers. "And he was a very unique guy."
Copeland worked at the post office, second shift, Summers said. And he would get up early in the morning — four to five days a week — drive 110 miles to Knoxville, and finish his classes around noon. Then he would about-face in his Volkswagen and scoot back to Chattanooga. He eventually graduated in 1966 and started working at a firm in town, Summers said.
"I went to the University of Memphis," Whittenburg said. "And he hired me fresh out of law school and more or less taught me how to practice law, which they don't necessarily do in law school."
They tackled personal injury cases and some bankruptcy, Whittenburg, 57, said. Eventually, they bowed out of bankruptcy cases in 2005, concerned new laws would dry up their clientele. About four years ago, Copeland retired altogether.
Born in Florida, Copeland moved to Chattanooga as a youngster, Whittenburg said. His father owned a service station located by First Tennessee Bank in the Eastgate area. His mother raised Copeland and his two brothers, one of whom is former state representative David Copeland.
Attempts to reach his immediate family Monday were unsuccessful.
Neighbors were also unavailable in the sunny East Brainerd neighborhood. At 9015 Jennifer Lane, a brick home atop a hill where Steven Dale Copeland was reportedly living, a rusty car basked underneath a clump of trees. On the front step, a doormat read: "Leave."
Court records paint a more complicated picture of Steven Dale Copeland.
In February, Steven Dale Copeland was arrested after swerving on East Brainerd Road and charged with driving under the influence, failure to maintain lane, driving left of the center line, and failure to exercise due care. He was due to appear before Judge Gary Starnes Wednesday in Hamilton County General Sessions Court.
He has no other criminal history in Hamilton County, but was involved in a property dispute case that carried on for several years before reaching the Tennessee Court of Appeals in Knoxville in 2011.
According to court records, his father purchased a piece of property that he relinquished to Dale Copeland in 1977. Glenn Copeland's neighbors at the time moved the property line "by agreement so that it didn't intersect the house."
But years later, Dale Copeland objected to a neighbor's claim to trees he believed were on his property. That neighbor retorted she didn't realize there was a boundary line issue. After they compared surveys and found they had different understandings, the neighbor hired a company to mark the property. According to court records, the neighbor "saw Copeland remove one of [the] flags and throw it."
Such disputes turned into a legal issue that was first addressed in Hamilton County Chancery Court in 2003, clerks said. After a special judge drew an agreed line, the neighbors appealed the decision. But the appeals court judge agreed in 2011 with the initial decision, records show.
Copeland's final legal matter concerned back rent, Whittenburg said. He alleged a renter vacated Dec. 30 and owed him $1,540.92.
He was scheduled on the Hamilton County General Sessions docket — for Monday at 8:30 a.m.
But the matter ultimately was dismissed.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at 423-757-6347 or firstname.lastname@example.org.