Hamilton Place mall riot suspect arrested again after traffic stop

Hamilton Place mall riot suspect arrested again after traffic stop

March 18th, 2019 by Rosana Hughes in Local Regional News

Chattanooga police have again arrested 18-year-old David Ballard, the gang member accused of pulling a gun and starting a riot at Hamilton Place mall last year.

Police responded in force to the mall on Feb. 17, 2018, after multiple people called in to report shots being fired there. Investigators found no physical evidence shots had been fired in the building, but did find a handgun that was dropped in the parking lot.

David Ballard

David Ballard

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Surveillance footage taken during the incident showed it began with a fight that escalated when Ballard pulled out a firearm, police said at the time.

He turned himself in on Feb. 27.

This time, though, Ballard was arrested on unrelated charges. He was a passenger in a vehicle that gang unit investigators tried to stop in the area of 4300 Ohls Ave. near Forest Hills Cemetery, according to Hamilton County court records.

Investigators first spotted Tavarious Johnson, whom they know to not have a driver's license, get in the driver's seat of a vehicle with "extremely dark" window tint, court records show.

Police tried to stop the vehicle, but Johnson did not stop. And as he evaded police, he "was unable to keep the vehicle on the road," running off it multiple times before hitting a curb so hard it caused his front right tire to go flat.

At that point, investigators said, at least two doors opened, indicating that some of the occupants were getting ready to jump out and run.

But Johnson was driving "entirely in the wrong lane," and then turned sharply, hitting a police vehicle and forcing that vehicle to hit the side of a parked car.

Johnson continued fleeing but stopped a short time after ramming the police vehicle. All three occupants, Ballard and a man identified as Kadarrius Coleman, got out and ran.

As they ran, police saw Coleman throw a loaded Glock 17 onto the side of the street. Police are still looking for him.

Johnson was found a short time later in the 4300 block of Grand Avenue, and Ballard was found inside the Forest Hills Cemetery with no shoes and wearing the same clothes he wore while running from police. His shoes were left in the vehicle, according to police.

Ballard was wearing a Tennessee Department of Corrections GPS monitor that indicated he was in the same area as the pursuit at the same time.

A search of the vehicle yielded several probation papers for Ballard, as well as a fully loaded extended .45-caliber magazine sitting on the floor of the front passenger seat where Ballard was sitting. A cellphone case and a box with several 9mm bullets was found in the back seat on top of some of Ballard's probation papers.

Both men were taken into custody for questioning.

They both "openly admitted" to running from police, and in the back seat of a patrol vehicle Johnson told Ballard, "I tried to ram they —— off the road" and made comments about having a gun that was not recovered by police.

Johnson was charged with two counts of aggravated assault on police, evading arrest, driving on roadways laned for traffic, driving without a license and tinted windows violation.

When questioned Ballard about the gun found in the vehicle, he said it wasn't his but admitted to touching it and at least five other guns since he was released from prison on March 5. Police also have photos posted to social media since then showing Ballard holding guns.

Since Ballard is a convicted felon and is prohibited from possessing firearms or being around other gang members.

He also admitted to selling a Glock 33 for $450 about five minutes before being stopped.

Ballard was charged with evading arrest and possessing a firearm with intent to go armed.

And just as before, he threatened to cut off his GPS monitor when he made bond, his arrest report states.

Just two months after the February 2018 mall riot incident, Ballard was stopped for trespassing on April 25. He ran from police in that case, too, but told a detective over the phone that he had just cut off his GPS monitor.

Police didn't catch up to him until May 14. Officers placed handcuffs on him and began walking him out to a patrol vehicle, but he pushed off and tried to run again, still handcuffed.

But after running for a couple of blocks, officers said he "appeared gassed out and laid down."

Citing those incidents, investigators said Ballard is a "severe flight risk" and called him a "danger to citizens of Hamilton County due to his propensity for violence."

His bond was set at $45,000 and he remains in the Hamilton County Jail.

Coleman has yet to be booked, but on his Facebook page, he posted, "Man Damn Free Me Finna Turn Myself In." That was at 4:32 p.m. on Sunday.

Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.