Judge orders new hearing for man accused of shooting at officers

Published 9:50 am Monday, January 16, 2017

A Criminal Court judge has ordered a new preliminary hearing for a man accused of opening fire on police officers and injuring two people in December 2015.
Kelly Lee Pitts, 37, of 433 Dry Hollow Road, Elizabethton, was arrested on Dec. 17, 2015, by agents of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and charged with seven counts of attempted first degree murder.
Following a preliminary hearing in March 2016, the case against Pitts was bound over to the grand jury. In May 2016 a Carter County Grand Jury indicted Pitts on seven counts of attempted first degree murder and seven counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.
The same month the indictment was handed down, Pitts’ attorney, Greg Norris, filed a motion in Criminal Court asking the court to grant a new preliminary hearing for Pitts.
In his motion seeking a new hearing, Norris said he had received a copy of the audio recording of the previous hearing, which he described as “inaudible and unusable in its current state.”
Due to the fact the audio was not usable, Norris asked the court to grant a new preliminary hearing, or in the alternative to direct the state to attempt to enhance the recording of the previous hearing. If the court allows the state to enhance the recording, Norris asked the court to reserve its ruling on a motion for a new preliminary hearing until it was determined if the enhanced audio recording was usable.
On Dec. 28, Criminal Court Judge Stacy Street signed an order to remand the case back to General Sessions Court for a new preliminary hearing. His order also set the date for the preliminary hearing as Jan. 20, 2017. The Circuit Court Clerk’s Office confirmed on Friday that Pitts is scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court on Jan. 20.
Since Pitts’ original preliminary hearing, the audio recording system in the General Sessions courtroom has been replaced and upgraded.
The charges against Pitts stem from an incident that began on Dec. 16, 2015, and carried over into the early morning hours of Dec. 17, 2015.
On the evening of Dec. 16, 2015, deputies of the Carter County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to 433 Dry Hollow Road, in the Stoney Creek community, on a report of an intoxicated man armed with a gun.
Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford was the first officer to arrive at the scene but he was soon joined by other officers from his Department. Pitts is accused of opening fire on the officers who responded to the call.
During the incident, Carter County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jenna Markland suffered a gunshot wound to the face and Brandy Hyder, who was Pitts’ girlfriend at the time, suffered a gunshot wound to her hand.
As part of the original preliminary hearing, both Lunceford and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Scott Lott testified about the events of that evening and the investigation that followed.
Lunceford testified he was talking with Hyder in the road in front of the home at 433 Dry Hollow Road when Pitts allegedly began shooting at the officers.
“Ms. Hyder was upset and crying and I told her that we weren’t going to harm him unless we had to,” Lunceford testified. “No sooner than I said that I heard the first shots.”
The officers took cover behind their vehicles and Lunceford said he heard 25 to 30 shots fired, followed by a short break of a few seconds and then a second burst of 25-30 shots.
It was after the second round of gunfire that Lunceford said he realized one of his officers had been injured along with a civilian.
“It was dark and a little hard to see, but I saw this dark stuff spreading on her face and I knew what it was,” Lunceford said of the injury suffered by Markland.
With the help of Hyder’s father, officers were able to evacuate both Hyder and Markland to waiting ambulances and they were taken to a local hospital for treatment.
Later that night, officers took Pitts into custody after locating him in a cave near the residence.
During the preliminary hearing, TBI Special Agent Scott Lott said when officers searched Pitts’ home they found an SKS rifle and an AK47 assault rifle lying on a bed in the bedroom officers believe the shots were fired from.
“The forensic scientists recovered 52 7.62 shell casings from that bedroom,” Lott said. “The magazines that were recovered were 30-round magazines.”

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