Information about the Labor Day weekend police pursuit that culminated in a head-on crash involving a sheriff’s deputy’s cruiser and the fleeting motorist moments later being shot by a state trooper is slowly becoming known.
Much, however, has not been released with the investigation ongoing.
The incident occurred around 2:30 p.m. Saturday on Interstate 40 at the bottom of the east entrance ramp at the 329 mile marker in Crab Orchard.
Moments before somewhere west of the Genesis Rd. exit, troopers with the Tennessee Highway Patrol spotted a vehicle that was the subject of a be-on-the-lookout/welfare check at the request of a Kentucky family.
The Chronicle has since learned from multiple police sources Kentucky authorities were asked to check on a man after family members became concerned over his behavior and statements made toward police officers.
Troopers attempted to stop the suspect, but the man fled, weaving in and out of traffic made heavy with holiday travelers and passing vehicles on the shoulder of the interstate. When speeds reached 125 mph, troopers reported they were terminating the pursuit around the 322 mile marker because of the danger to other motorists.
Troopers deactivated lights and sirens but continued traveling east.
Cumberland County sheriff’s deputies had staged at the Crab Orchard exit and were in the process of preparing to set up spike strips designed to disable the vehicle’s tires when officers saw the vehicle exit I-40 and turn onto Bat Town Rd.
At least one deputy attempted to catch up with the fleeing motorist, who turned off the roadway and traveled through an open gate into a field. The man then exited the field and attempted to re-enter I-40 when he crashed head-on into Sgt. Kevin Davis’ patrol car at the bottom of the ramp.
It was estimated that the vehicle was traveling well in excess of the posted speed as the driver tried to return to I-40.
Deputies and state troopers quickly converged on the vehicle, shots were fired, and the driver was struck multiple times in the abdomen and upper chest.
Helicopters were called to the scene to take Davis to The University of Tennessee Medical Center, where he was treated in the trauma center. He has since returned home and is continuing to be treated for his injuries.
The man shot was flown to an unknown regional trauma center. His name, age, hometown and his condition have not been released. The Chronicle has been told by law enforcement sources that the man remains in intensive care and is in critical condition.
The 13th Judicial District Attorney General’s Office immediately asked the TBI to conduct an independent investigation of the incident and agents were on the scene most of Saturday afternoon and into the evening.
The TBI in Nashville confirmed it was conducting an investigation, and both TBI and THP issued releases stating a state trooper was the officer involved in the shooting. That officer has not been publicly identified and is presumed to be on administrative leave pending outcome of the probe.
Videos from cellphones and/or dash cameras have surfaced and are now in the hands of the TBI. One was sent to the Chronicle and to other media outlets and shows smoke pouring from the suspect’s vehicle that had spun down an embankment after crashing into the patrol car.
It shows state troopers and sheriff’s deputies converging on the vehicle with weapons drawn. The officers suddenly stop and quickly retreat. Then 16 shots are heard on the video.
The Chronicle had confirmed the suspect was shot three times in the abdomen and once in the upper left chest area. No officers were shot.
What officers saw inside the vehicle, verbal exchanges between police and the motorist and whether a gun was found in the vehicle has not been released.
The Chronicle requested a copy of the preliminary crash report Thursday morning and did not receive a response by press deadline. The crash was investigated as a separate incident by THP and the department’s Critical Incident Response Team.
The TBI will release its findings to the District Attorney’s Office for review and further action is deemed needed. At some point the conclusion of those findings will be released to the public or presented to the grand jury.