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A man who was shot last year by Jackson County, Alabama, deputies after he tried to enter the county courthouse with a loaded gun was found dead last week in a remote, mountainous area not far from the Tennessee state line.

Fred Swearengin was last seen by his family Jan. 5, and officials and family members began a search but with no certainty of where to look, officials said.

Jackson County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen said Friday that Swearengin's maroon Dodge Ram truck was seen a while back by a hunter who thought it was just another hunter's truck. When that same hunter returned to the area last week, he saw the same truck and grew suspicious enough to alert authorities, Harnen said.

"We started to search that evening for several hours and didn't locate him," Harnen said. "We started back the next morning."

With help from a Alabama Law Enforcement Agency helicopter, the search was over in about 45 minutes, Harnen said. Swearengin's body was found Tuesday about 300-400 yards from his truck at the bottom of a steep slope. His body appeared to have been there for an extended time.

An autopsy is being performed, but Harnen said investigators found no signs of foul play or indications that Swearengin had taken his own life. A full autopsy report could be a few months off, he said.

Deputies searched Swearengin's truck and found an M-14 rifle, ammunition for that weapon and another weapon. A pistol was found on Swearengin's body, Harnen said. There were also some sleeping bags and survival gear in the truck, he said.

Swearengin was not initially identified by authorities after he was shot Sept. 18, 2019, while allegedly trying to enter the Jackson County Courthouse armed with a pistol. He was shot by officers manning the metal detector at the courthouse entrance.

The incident led to the formation of a security committee to study whether any improvements needed to be made, Jackson County Commission's office officials said in September, although security measures appeared to work.

Swearengin's case was presented to a grand jury that returned an indictment charging him with attempted first-degree assault, officials said. He hadn't been arrested because he was still recovering from his gunshot wounds, Harnen said.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.

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