Police say James Claude Parsons Jr., 44, of Fall Branch, attempted to ambush officers after fleeing a wreck. He was wanted on numerous charges, including attempted first-degree murder.
A man shot and killed by Sullivan County deputies was wanted for numerous violent offenses, and was known to say police wouldn't take him alive.
The incident that lead to the shootout began with a seemingly routine call to central dispatch, reporting a single-vehicle crash about 10:22 Thursday night. Officers arrived at the wreck, near Horse Creek Village on Highway 93, in the Sullivan Gardens Community, where a witness said two men ran away after their 1994 Dodge Daytona hit a guardrail.
According to Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson, deputies crossed a small bridge over a creek to see a man running through a pasture. Officers then went down both sides of the creek bank, that runs parallel to Highway 93, searching for the men.
A splash drew the attention of deputies, who shined a flashlight into the creek.
"(Deputies) had no idea he was there until the light crossed over him," Anderson said.
"He was right on the edge of the creek and there was a small log there. He was laying beside that log, just rolled over and, "Boom, boom," just started firing."
Officers on the Highway 93 side of the creek returned fire. A deputy on the other side of the creek peered over the bank to see the suspect's leg. The suspect then opened fire above his head in that officer's direction.
"The only thing that kept that officer from being killed is there was a barb wire fence on the edge of that creek bank and he couldn't get over it," Anderson said.
The suspect, James Claude Parsons Jr., 44, of Fall Branch, was shot an killed -- his revolver still pointing towards the deputy above him.
"There's no doubt in my mind he was laying and waiting on those officers," Anderson said. "He knew they were behind him, probably saw their flash lights, and there is no doubt in my mind he tried to ambush those officers. They were very quick reacting."
A helicopter, two police dogs and more than 50 officers from various jurisdictions spent the night searching for the other suspect, but to no avail. Anderson said residents of the area have no reason to fear, as the second man is likely, "long gone." Police are conducting interviews to pinpoint Parsons whereabouts on Thursday night, and who may have accompanied him.
As for Parsons, Anderson said a warning had been posted in roll call to be on the lookout, use extreme caution in approaching him. A capias for Parsons' arrest had recently been handed down by the grand jury, charging him with attempted first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault, four counts of aggravated burglary, DUI and evading arrest.
"He's had a very, very violent past," Anderson told reporters, waving Parson's nine-page criminal record in the air. Since 1999, some of his previous charges include two counts of first-degree attempted murder, reckless aggravated assault, felony evading arrest, felony reckless endangerment, theft over $1,000, resisting arrest, evading arrest and driving under the influence.
Anderson said his office had received a tip that Parsons was carrying two 9 mm pistols, and would use them on law enforcement.
"I speculate that because he had such a violent past, knew that there were warrants out on him, and the statements he made that he wouldn't be taken alive by law enforcement, that led him to run (from the scene of the crash)," Anderson said.
From the time officers arrived at the scene to Parson's death was about 20 minutes. Anderson declined to identify the four deputies involved, and directed further questions to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, who is handling the investigation.
The wrecked Dodge Daytona was confiscated for fingerprinting, and Parson's body has been sent to undergo an autopsy.
Anderson said whenever officers arrive at the scene of a wreck, the last thing they expect is to be fired upon.
"You might find somebody intoxicated laying around somewhere hiding from you, but you never expect someone to pull a gun out and start firing on you. That's the first time I've ever heard of that, as far as a crash, in 34 years. That's just highly unusual."
Anderson reiterated to reporters several times that his deputies, "did everything by the book," and that Parsons -- who they did not know they were dealing with -- was going to ambush them from the creek bed.
"When you approach a man in the night time and they open fire on you -- that is probably one of the scariest things I've ever had happen to me," Anderson said of previous experiences.
"(The deputies) training and instinct really paid off. It kept the officers safe, they all went home and none of them were injured when they easily could have been killed."