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Hawkins gunman gets three years in ambush

Jeff Bobo • Jun 21, 2014 at 2:47 PM

ROGERSVIILLE — A Hawkins County man accused of ambushing a rival suitor with gunfire last year pleaded guilty to weapons charges Friday in criminal court, and then had his request for alternative sentencing sternly rejected.

Judge John Dugger told Zachary Evan Matlock, 23, 3535 Stanley Valley Road, Surgoinsville, that he would not consider probation or house arrest in light of Matlock's lengthy previous record, as well as Matlock's "lack of respect for the law, lack of rehabilitation, and for having dangerous firearms in his possession."

Matlock was sentenced Friday to three years and fined $1,100 in exchange for guilty pleas to two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

The charges stemmed from the ambush that occurred on Oct. 19 of last year.

The victim had reportedly received a text from a female friend's cell phone inviting him to a residence on Caney Valley Loop. Police said Matlock had been in a relationship with that female as well.

The victim told police he thought he was meeting the female.

When he arrived, however, he observed Matlock come out of the back door of the residence, and what he thought to be a muzzle blast from a gun coming from Matlock's hand.

The victim told police he heard four to five gunshots, and police later found damage to the victim's vehicle that was reportedly caused by bullets.

Police later seized a .45 caliber lever action rifle and a .380 Ruger handgun from Matlock.

Matlock was originally charged with Class C felony aggravated assault, as well as the two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

While out on bail he was charged with domestic assault and vandalism on Jan. 7 — which was later dismissed in April — and for failure to appear on Jan.13.

On Jan. 29, Sessions Judge J. Todd Ross allowed Matlock to plead the aggravated assault charge down to a misdemeanor simple assault in exchange for a sentence of 11 months and 29 days in jail with release eligibility after serving 75 percent.

Matlock then squandered an opportunity provided by Ross to straighten his life out.

Despite his previous record, which includes convictions for robbery, drug possession, multiple thefts, multiple criminal trespassing, parole violation, failure to appear and the weapons charges which were pending at the time, on April 28 Ross approved Matlock to be released on house arrest while wearing a GPS monitor.

A condition of that house arrest was that he enter a long-term drug rehabilitation facility.

Matlock was arrested earlier this month for probation violation after he removed his GPS ankle monitor and walked out of rehab.

Following Matlock's plea Friday his attorney, Matt King, informed Dugger that Matlock was requesting alternative sentencing such as "community corrections," which generally means house arrest.

Dugger said he was not inclined to do that.

"He's got guns, robbery, violence," Dugger said. "I'm not granting this. He made this record. This is not a close call."

Dugger added, "You're lucky the feds didn't get these (possession of a firearm by a convicted felon) charges. You would have gotten a lot more time."

Matlock's three-year sentence on the gun charges will run concurrently with the simple assault sentence he is already serving. He will be eligible for early release after serving 30 percent of the three years.

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