Attempted murder case sent back to Criminal Court

Published 6:52 pm Friday, February 3, 2017

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye  Carter County Sheriff's Office Deputy Jenna Markland testified in court Friday about the night in December 2015 when she was shot in the face while responding to a call of a man armed with a gun.

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye
Carter County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jenna Markland testified in court Friday about the night in December 2015 when she was shot in the face while responding to a call of a man armed with a gun.

A Carter County man has once again been bound over to Criminal Court on attempted murder charges after police say he opened fire on officers responding to a 911 call about an intoxicated man with a gun in December 2015.
Kelly Lee Pitts, 37, of 433 Dry Hollow Road, appeared in General Sessions Court on Friday for a preliminary hearing in the case against him. Friday marked the second preliminary hearing in the case after Criminal Court Judge Stacy Street remanded the case back to the lower court for a new hearing. The reasoning behind Street’s order centered around a request from Pitts attorney for a new hearing due to the audio recording of the previous hearing being inaudible due to malfunctions with the recording system. Since the original hearing in the Pitts case, the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office replaced and upgraded the recording equipment in the General Sessions Courtroom.
At the conclusion of Friday’s hearing, Judge Keith Bowers Jr. ruled the state had presented enough evidence in the case to establish probable cause support the charges of seven counts of attempted first-degree murder and seven counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony against Pitts.
During the original hearing, Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Scott Lott testified about the events of Dec. 16 and 17, 2015, at Pitts’ home on Dry Hollow Road. During Friday’s hearing, both men once again testified, and this time they were joined by Carter County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jenna Markland, who suffered two gunshot wounds to her head during the incident.
Lunceford was the first to arrive on the scene that night on Dry Hollow Road. During his testimony, Lunceford said he was leaving his church on Blue Springs Road and was headed home with Carter County 911 dispatched officers to the home on Dry Hollow Road after a caller reported a man there was intoxicated and in possession of a gun.
As the call went out, Lunceford said he saw he was near the entrance to Dry Hollow Road, so he responded to the call.
As he pulled up in front of the home, Lunceford said he saw a man standing at the end of the driveway near the road, a man and woman standing in the driveway near a mobile home, and a man silhouetted in the doorway of the trailer. He said he could tell the couple in the driveway and the man silhouetted in the door were yelling at each other, but he could not hear what they were saying. As he watched, he said the man in the doorway slammed the door.
Lunceford said he got out of his car and opened his trunk so he could put on his ballistics vest. “Since I didn’t have a sidearm on, I got my shotgun out of my trunk,” Lunceford said.
The Sheriff said he then walked around to the passenger side of his car to speak with the man standing at the entrance to the driveway. Lunceford said he went to that side of the car so the car would be between him and the trailer since the 911 caller reported a man was armed with a gun.
Lunceford began speaking with the man, who was later identified as Michael Hyder.
While Hyder and Lunceford were talking, the man and woman who had been outside the trailer walked up the hill. Lunceford said he noticed a light come on in the trailer and a male was silhouetted in a window. A few seconds later, the light went back out.
Around this same time, Lunceford said two more police cruisers arrived on the scene, but he was unsure of how man officers were in the cars.
The Sheriff said the woman, later identified as Pitts’ girlfriend Brandy Hyder, then approached him to talk to him with the other man kept walking.
“She was crying and said ‘Don’t hurt him,’ Lunceford said. “I said ‘Ma’am, no one is going to hurt him unless we absolutely have to.”
It was then that gunshots erupted, Lunceford said.
“There were 25 to 30 rounds fired, then a second or two break and then another 25 to 30 rounds were fired,” Lunceford said. “I’m a Marine Corps veteran. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I knew it was a semi-automatic rifle. They make a different sound.”
Lunceford testified after the second round of gunfire stopped he stood up and fired one round from his shotgun at the window where just moments before he had seen the figure silhouetted. The Sheriff said he was the only one to fire a shot in return. One of the reasons Lunceford said he and his other officers did not fire more round at the trailer is because they were unsure of how many people were in the home and they did not want to injure any innocent bystanders.
“Law enforcement is different than combat,” Lunceford said. “In combat you shoot the trailer up. In law enforcement, you have to know what you’re shooting at.”
It was after the Sheriff fired at the trailer that he realized Markland had been hit.
Markland testified about those moments under fire as well on Friday.
A new deputy with the department, Markland was still in her field training phase. She was riding with Sgt. David Caldwell that night.
As they pulled onto the scene, Markland noted that Deputy Jason Mosier had arrived just ahead of them and had pulled in behind Lunceford’s car. Caldwell pulled their police cruiser in behind Mosier’s car.
“I went to get out of the patrol car and shots were fired,” Markland said. “As I was getting out of the car I felt an explosion in my face. The door was open and I rolled out of the car.”
Markland was able to crawl back into the car and radio for help and let 911 know that shots had been fired at the scene. After getting back out of the car, Markland said Caldwell moved her to take cover behind the rear wheel of the cruiser and she spoke to him.
“I believe I asked him if my face was OK or what it looked like,” Markland said. “He said it was OK.”
Lunceford and the officers then got Markland into the back seat of Caldwell’s cruiser. Lunceford attempted to crawl over the center console into the driver’s seat but was not able to. The officers would be unable to drive Markland to safety without putting themselves in danger by walking around to the driver’s side of the cars.
It was around this time that Michael Hyder yelled to the officers that Brandy Hyder had also been hit by a bullet. Michael Hyder was able to drive his personal truck down to the road, and the officers loaded Markland into the truck. Hyder then drove both women to a waiting ambulance.
“I was flown to the Johnson City Medical Center,” Markland testified. “I was shot in the right side of my face and grazed on the left side of my head.”
Markland underwent two surgeries for her injuries, but doctors were not able to recover the bullet that struck her face.
“It is embedded in my sinus cavity, and they cannot remove it,” Markland said. “I have numbness to my right side along with the top row of my teeth. (The doctor) believes it will be permanent.”
During his testimony, TBI Agent Scott Lott testified about the weapons recovered inside Pitts home as well as statements made by Pitts after he was arrested.
During an interview, Lott said Pitts stated he fired a few rounds from a rifle during the incident.
“I had an AK-47, and I fired a few rounds into the ground,” Lott read from Pitts’ signed statement. “I did not shoot at the cars.”
Lott said TBI agents recovered both an AK-47 and an SKS rifle, both with 30-round magazines, from the bedroom in the home where officers believe Pitts fired the guns. He also noted that both rifles shoot the same type of ammunition.
In addition to the rifles, Lott said the forensics team recovered 52 spent shell casings in the same bedroom. The casings were sent for ballistics analysis. Lott said the tests showed that 22 rounds were fired from the AK-47 and 30 rounds were fired from the SKS.

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