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Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston

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Anthony Edmonds, 53, was shot and killed during an apparent robbery attempt at a gas station on Ringgold Road on June 30, 2016.
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Todd Browning

Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston announced Tuesday he will not file charges in a pair of fatal self-defense shootings in East Ridge.

In June, Charles Russell shot and killed 55-year-old Anthony Edmonds, who was threatening a gas station clerk with a meat cleaver, police said.

"Edmonds had just performed a strong-armed robbery with a butcher knife on a convenience store right before the shooting occurred," Pinkston wrote in an email Monday to East Ridge Police Chief J.R. Reed. Because Russell acted out of self-defense, Pinkston concluded that "the shooting was justified and that no charges should be filed."

A store clerk said Edmonds came into the Marathon gas station at 4011 Ringgold Road just before 2 a.m., according to a report from East Ridge police.

Then he pulled a mask over his face, chased the clerk around the store, and pulled out a meat cleaver, demanding money from the cash register. After the clerk handed it over, Edmonds grabbed a rack of cigarettes and started to force her out of the store.

In the parking lot, Russell noticed the commotion as he got out of his vehicle, the report said. Russell said Edmonds shouted that he had a gun and would kill the clerk. So Russell went back to his car, grabbed his .40-caliber gun, and turned back around.

By that point, the report said, Edmonds had moved close enough to strike him with the cigarette rack. Then Edmonds stepped back and "began reaching for something."

Thinking he was reaching for a gun, Russell said, he shot the man.

At the time, East Ridge police said Russell was licensed to carry a weapon. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but his former employer, ABC Bonding in Chattanooga, said Russell worked as a bonding agent at the time of the shooting.

Pinkston also said Tuesday he won't press charges against Lt. Daniel Stephenson, who fatally shot Todd Browning outside his home on Prigmore Drive on Aug. 19.

Also citing a self-defense statute, Pinkston said Stephenson exhausted every reasonable means to arrest Browning; had probable cause to believe Browning would try to kill him; and was wearing his uniform, which clearly identified him as a police officer.

Stephenson's attorney, Bryan Hoss, said he was "very pleased" with Pinkston's decision.

"We've always maintained the officer was acting in self defense, that he was attacked by a man wielding a very dangerous weapon," Hoss said. "And we're glad that this part of the case is now over."

On Aug. 19, Hoss said Stephenson was talking with a burglary victim around 6 p.m. when a report came in about a man inside an AutoZone on Ringgold Road. The report said the man had a weapon, was threatening to kill people and was throwing objects around the store, Hoss said.

The first officer to arrive on scene, Stephenson approached Browning, who was screaming and threatening to kill him. Browning then rushed past Stephenson, jumped in his car and drove away.

Stephenson took down the man's license plate number, Hoss said, which took him to Browning's home on Prigmore Drive. He parked and pulled his rifle out of the patrol car trunk. Soon after, Browning came out of the home with a 3-foot-long steel plumbing tool.

Hoss said Browning started swinging the tool, continuing to move forward while ignoring Stephenson's orders to stop. Stephenson fired when Browning was so close that he would have been able to hit Stephenson if he came any closer, Hoss said.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.

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