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Holman Tanner

A UTC student killed last year was protecting his girlfriend when he was fatally shot, according to Hamilton County Court records.

Two people — Jakob Demoss, 20, and Israel Ackerman, 21 — were arrested over the weekend in connection to the March 19 homicide of 20-year-old Holman "Trey" Tanner.

Tanner was a junior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he was studying to become a mechanical engineer so he "could demonstrate and utilize his natural gift and love of mathematics," according to his obituary.

"Holman's infectious smile and charming personality captured the attention and hearts of everyone with whom he came into contact throughout his life," his obituary reads. "Holman was always attentive to others' needs before his own[.]"

A witness would later tell Chattanooga homicide investigators that Tanner appeared to be defending his girlfriend when he lunged in front of an armed man who was demanding her and others' cell phones.

On that March 19 day, police were called to a home in the 800 block of M.L. King Boulevard just after 12:30 a.m. There, they found Tanner on the living room floor with a single gunshot wound to his neck. He was pronounced dead at the scene, according to court records.

Multiple people had been gathered in the home at the time of the killing, court records state. They told police a man wearing a white hoodie went into the living room and pointed a gun at everyone.

"Give me all your phones give me all your s ——," the man allegedly said.

Another man was seen running toward the kitchen, though court records don't specify who that was or why he ran toward the kitchen.

In the meantime, people began handing their cell phones and wallets to the man, court records show. But when the man demanded Tanner's girlfriend give up her phone, Tanner reportedly stood up and said "no" before lunging at the man.

That is when the man shot Tanner and fled.

Several months went by before a witness, who claimed to have knowledge of the homicide, came forward to police in September, according to court records.

The witness told investigators that a friend told the witness she knew Ackerman, and Ackerman had confessed to killing a UTC student, court records state. The witness provided specific details that would only be known to the shooter or someone who had spoken to the shooter, as those details hadn't been made public.

The witness said Ackerman and Demoss had gone to the students' home looking to buy drugs, but they were allegedly looking for money instead.

Police then interviewed the witness' friend on Feb. 2 of this year, according to court records. That person appears to have told police a similar story, according to court records, but only went as far as saying that Ackerman and "Drako" — Demoss — had gone to the house to smoke marijuana and then returned to their Airbnb in Red Bank.

At the time of the homicide, witnesses at the scene told police that, before the shooting, a man named Jakob "had been hanging out at the residence and stated that drug dealers were getting robbed in the area. Tanner Holman was known to deal drugs," investigators noted in the criminal affidavit.

A few days after the shooting, on March 23, investigators spoke to Ackerman by phone, court records state. He confirmed being at the same house earlier that day but said he left at around 7 p.m. to go to Pikeville, Tennessee.

In September, police obtained a search warrant for Ackerman's phone records. The records showed Ackerman was in the 800 block of M.L. King Boulevard at the time of the homicide and had returned to the Red Bank area afterward, just as the witness' friend said, investigators noted in the arrest affidavit. Another search warrant was later obtained for Demoss' Snapchat records, which confirmed the same location history.

Demoss and Ackerman have each been charged with felony murder, especially aggravated robbery and three counts of aggravated robbery.

They were arrested on Feb. 6 — Demoss in Cleveland, Tennessee, and Ackerman in Lake County, Florida. Ackerman is still awaiting extradition to Hamilton County.

As for Tanner, according to his obituary, he loved the outdoors, "especially the lake and mountains where he enjoyed spending time with family and friends."

He "always had an upbeat outlook and was so much fun to be around. Being the social person he was, he was always inclusive to everyone making sure no one was left out," the obituary reads. "His genuine heart touched the lives of many. He was a shining star whose light was extinguished too soon. He will forever be missed, but his kind spirit will never be forgotten."

Contact Rosana Hughes at 423-757-6327, rhughes@timesfreepress.com or follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.

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