A man McMinn County, Tennessee, deputies disarmed in 2015 after he drew a revolver during a scuffle in the local Walmart was sentenced this week to 80 years in prison.
On Feb. 7, 2015, off-duty McMinn County narcotics officer Jared Price was shopping at the Athens Walmart when he spotted Ricky Lee Womac and recognized him as a suspect wanted on outstanding warrants. Price kept Womac in view while he summoned other officers to the Athens store, Sheriff Joe Guy said in the days after the incident.
Deputies Paul Redrup and Dylan Presswood arrived at the store a few minutes later as Womac reached the checkout line.
"At that point, Mr. Womac was at a cash register," Guy said in a 2015 release on the incident. "Deputy Redrup approached him from behind and told him he was under arrest. Womac pretended to place some money in his left coat pocket, and that was when he drew a .22-caliber magnum handgun and cocked it.
"Both deputies grabbed Womac and Deputy Redrup was able to place his hand in the revolver's action," Guy said. "Womac attempted to fire the weapon but the hammer came down on Redrup's hand."
There were more than 50 people in the checkout lines, including a child and a cashier who were just a few feet away, the sheriff said. Price drew and then reholstered his weapon as the situation escalated. Price, Presswood and Redrup wrestled Womac across the aisle and into the store's nail salon, where they subdued him.
On Jan. 31, the now-48-year-old Womac was convicted by a jury on two counts of attempted first-degree murder, one count each of reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, McMinn County Criminal Court records show. At the time of the 2015 incident, Womac was out on parole on a conviction for facilitation to commit first-degree murder in the Christmas Day 1989 jailhouse beating death of 36-year-old Leck Charles Nunley.
On Monday, Criminal Court Judge Andrew Freiberg sentenced Womac to 40 years in prison on each of the attempted murder counts, four years on the reckless endangerment charge and 10 years on the weapons possession count, court documents state. Freiberg ordered the two 40-year terms be served consecutively, while the other sentences were ordered to be served at the same time at the attempted murder sentences, documents state. The attempted murder charges are class A felonies, while the weapons charge is a class C felony and the endangerment charge is a class E felony.
Womac was sentenced as a multiple offender, which means he must serve 35 percent of his sentence before he can become eligible for parole, or 28 years, documents state. He would be 76 years old at that point.
His attorney, D. Mitchell Bryant, said he was certain Womac would appeal the sentence.
"We have to do a motion for a new trial and I think we have that set for Dec. 2," Bryant said Thursday. "After the motion for a new trial, then we'll file an appeal on his behalf in the court of criminal appeals" on the sentence.
Bryant said Womac already had spent most of his adult life in prison when he was paroled in April 2014 in the 1989 fatal beating conviction. Womac was just 19 when he and fellow inmates Randy Hicks and Earnest Leroy Lawson were named in Nunley's slaying. Bryant said a sock filled with coins was the weapon used.
McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy in 2015 said Womac was sentenced to 25 years in prison in Nunley's death. At the time, Guy also described the details of the Walmart incident that ended with no shots fired and no serious injuries.
Tennessee Department of Correction inmate records show Womac is now incarcerated at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex west of Pikeville, Tennessee.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.