Search underway after Blount deputy slain, another injured

Published 3:32 pm Friday, February 9, 2024

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By Buzz Trexler
Star Correspondent
A search was still underway Friday afternoon for a suspect after a Blount County Sheriff’s Office deputy was killed and another injured Thursday night.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued a Blue Alert for 42-year-old Kenneth Wayne DeHart Jr., having obtained warrants charging him with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and felon in possession of a weapon. DeHart has been added to the TBI Most Wanted List and the TBI is offering a reward of up to $2,500, while the Blount County Mayor’s Office is offering a $10,000 reward. With the addition of businesses and individuals pledging, the reward is at $80,000.

A visibly shaken Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong said during a press conference around 1:15 a.m. Friday that Blount County Deputy Greg McCowan, 43, was shot to death following a traffic stop, while Deputy Shelby Eggers, 22, suffered a gunshot to the leg and returned fire.

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“My friends behind me, they’ve had officers killed, and they’ve stood here before you before,” the sheriff said as state, local, and federal law enforcement officials stood behind him. “I haven’t. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

Among those with Berrong at the press conference was Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp, who lost an officer in an ambush in 2016.

According to a TBI release, the deputies initiated a traffic stop on an SUV in the 4900 block of Sevierville Road in Maryville. The driver, identified as DeHart, would not cooperate with deputies and refused to get out of the vehicle. A taser was deployed with no effect, the release said, and at some point DeHart produced a gun and fired shots, striking both deputies. DeHart then drove away from the scene.

McCowan was transported to Blount Memorial Hospital, where he later died. Eggers was also transported with serious but non-life-threatening injuries and the Sheriff’s Office said she is recovering at home.

McCowan, who had two children and a granddaughter, began as a BCSO reserve deputy, and joined the force full-time in 2020 after graduating from the Regional Law Enforcement Academy in 2020 where BSCO said he excelled. He was awarded the Sheriff’s Office Lifesaving Commendation in April 2021 for his part in saving the life of a man trapped in a burning vehicle. McCowan had recently been accepted on the Crisis Negotiations team.

Eggers joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2019 as a Corrections deputy and graduated from the academy in 2022, where BCSO said she also excelled.