Man faces 7 counts of attempted murder in police shootout; Injured sheriff’s deputy, woman survive gunshot wounds
Published 6:36 pm Thursday, December 17, 2015
A 36-year-old man is behind bars and facing seven counts of attempted murder after police say he opened fire on officers and civilians when the Carter County Sheriff’s Department responded to a 911 call about an intoxicated man armed with a gun.
On Thursday morning, officers of the Sheriff’s Department along with officers of the Elizabethton Police Department, officers of the Tennessee Highway Patrol and agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation arrested Kelly Lee Pitts and charged him with seven counts of attempted first degree murder. Officials have identified Pitts as being from Hickory, N.C., but warrants filed in the case by the TBI list his address as 433 Dry Hollow Road, Elizabethton, which is the home he allegedly fired at officers from and later barricaded.
During the shootout with officers, Pitts shot and injured a female deputy and a female civilian according to police. Deputy Jenna Markland suffered two gunshot wounds to her face while the civilian, Brandy Hyder, suffered a gunshot wound to her hand. Both women were transported to a local hospital for treatment.
Officials described Markland’s wounds — one to her forehead and one to her face just above her mouth — as “grazing” wounds. She was released from the Johnson City Medical Center on Thursday afternoon.
Hyder was listed as being in stable condition at the hospital early in the day on Thursday but further information on her condition was unavailable later in the day.
Shortly after 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Hyder called 911 to report a man, later identified as Pitts, was intoxicated and waving a gun around.
Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford responded to the scene along with Markland, CCSD Sgt. David Caldwell and Deputy Jason Mosier.
While the officers were speaking with Hyder, Pitts opened fire on the officers and three civilians with an AK-47 rifle from inside the home at 433 Dry Hollow Road, Lunceford said.
Markland and Hyder were struck by bullets and the officers and civilians sought cover behind the three police cars parked in the road. Pitts continued firing shots into the deputies vehicles, pinning the officers and the civilians down, Lunceford said, adding he was able to return fire toward Pitts.
After Pitts ceased shooting, officers were able to get Markland and Hyder away from the scene when a local resident drove them in a personal vehicle to meet the Carter County Rescue Squad, Lunceford said. Both Markland and Hyder were responsive when they arrived at the Johnson City Medical Center, he added.
The Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams from the Sheriff’s Department and Elizabethton Police Department responded to the scene to help secure the area and take Pitts into custody.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the THP Aviation unit, and Carter County Rescue Squad responded in order to support the effort.
“The teams fired tear gas into the trailer and made entry discovering that Mr. Pitts had fled leaving behind a rifle and the AK-47,” Lunceford said. “A search for Pitts ensued, and he was discovered hiding in a cave behind the residence. “
“Pitts was still heavily armed with a rifle and two pistols, but surrendered when challenged by SWAT team members,” he added.
Officers took Pitts into custody about and he was later booked into the Carter County Detention Center where he remains held under a $700,000 bond. Pitts is scheduled to be arraigned today in Carter County General Sessions Court.
On Thursday, a crime scene investigation team with the TBI responded to the scene to collect evidence and reconstruct the events of the night before.
Members of the TBI team took measurements, used laser pointers to calculate bullet trajectory paths and used digital equipment to capture 3D images of the scene.
The three police cars remained on the scene for most of the day, the visible bullet holes and shattered glass a testament to the gunfire from the night before.
In the warrant charging Pitts with attempted murder, TBI Special Agent Scott Lott said Pitts fired several shots in the direction of the officers and civilians.
“Sheriff’s Department vehicles that were hit were primarily hit in the windows with at least two shots hitting the metal of two vehicles, which is consistent with Pitts aiming the gun in order to kill the people present,” Lott said.
Markland was a new patrol officer with the department who recently completed the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy and was in the field training program at the Sheriff’s Department according to Lunceford.
On Thursday afternoon Lunceford reflected on the events and the injury sustained by his deputy.
“I don’t want to say she’s fine, because she’s not, but it could have been a lot worse,” Lunceford said. “You don’t want anyone to get shot. I wish it had been me that had been shot instead of her.”