A Rhea County, Tennessee, man charged in June with attempted criminal homicide in the alleged shooting of a deputy contends he never fired a shot, is wrongly charged and his reputation is ruined.
Some charges in the case have been dropped, records show, and Keith Miller, 55, who describes himself as a lifelong Rhea County native, Sunday school teacher and a retired veteran, said Tuesday that he wants to set the record straight.
Miller was charged in the June 4 incident with one count of attempted criminal homicide, three counts of aggravated assault and domestic violence after officers answered a call at a home on Morgan Springs Road near Dayton, Tennessee, where a man officers identified as Miller had barricaded himself in a bedroom.
But Miller contends no one was shot and no shot was fired, and that because he now stands accused of shooting a police officer "my reputation has absolutely been destroyed."
Miller said he never saw any of the officers and didn't point a gun at anyone.
After a preliminary hearing in August, a charge of domestic violence and two counts of aggravated assault were dropped from the case. One count of attempted criminal homicide and one count of aggravated assault remain on the books for possible presentation to the grand jury when it meets Oct. 5, according to the Rhea County Circuit Court clerk's office.
Miller's attorney, Tim Hewitt, of the Logan-Thompson law firm in Cleveland, Tennessee, said Miller should be cleared of all charges.
"My client is innocent of all charges against him," Hewitt said Tuesday. "There was no domestic violence here, and he never even saw officers in his home and never employed a firearm at any point on June 4."
Twelfth Judicial District Attorney General Mike Taylor said in June that officers said they called for the barricaded Miller to open the door and when they pushed on the door a shot was fired, injuring a deputy.
On Tuesday, Taylor said that a search and examination of the scene since then produced no evidence that a shot had been fired and testimony in the preliminary hearing on the charge of domestic violence didn't support the initial charge, so that charge was dropped.
An affidavit of complaint filed by Rhea County Sheriff's Office Deputy Eric McMillan states that Miller had fired a shot that struck him in the groin, but Taylor said Tuesday there was no evidence of it. Taylor said it's possible the injured officer was cut by a mirror near the bedroom door, one point on which Hewitt agrees with prosecutors.
"What we advised the court and [Miller's] attorney was that a search warrant was issued and executed at Mr. Miller's residence and it did not turn up an expended cartridge nor did it turn up an expended bullet," Taylor said. "We also advised the court that the forensic report from the TBI laboratory which would be gunshot residue tests on Deputy McMillan's clothing did not support that it had been penetrated by a bullet."
But Taylor contends there's evidence without a fired shot that supports the attempted criminal homicide and aggravated assault charges.
"The allegations are that Mr. Miller, even if he didn't fire the weapon, pointed the weapon at the officers in a threatening manner," Taylor said.
"The judge felt that was a substantial step toward the commission of a homicide and that's why he bound it over," Taylor said. "At the very least an aggravated assault. When you employ a deadly weapon you don't have to actually shoot somebody to be charged with aggravated assault."
Hewitt counters, saying Miller did not take a "substantial step" toward committing a homicide and statements in the affidavits in the case that a .40-caliber Glock pistol was fired are false.
"I strongly disagree with the state's theory of attempted criminal homicide. They're saying the mere display of a firearm by Mr. Miller can be a basis for attempted homicide," Hewitt said.
"Now the story is conveniently changed to save face, I think, for the officers involved, but I don't think there's any evidence to support their allegation that Mr. Miller pointed a firearm at them," Hewitt said.
Contact Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.