by Jeff Woods
"I have a 5- and a 7-year-old," Mitchell said after referring to the Sandy Hook Elementary School killings. He asked whether the latest expansion of gun rights in Tennessee would let handgun carry permit owners bring their weapons in their cars onto elementary school grounds.
The answer is yes, but the bill's sponsor—Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby—didn't say that. Instead, he launched into the standard Republican rap on the marvelous law-abiding nature of all handgun carry permit owners.
"I’d encourage you to check out the people we’re allowing to bring and keep in their car," Faison said. "They have proven to the state of Tennessee …"
"I wouldn’t go there," Mitchell interjected. "I wouldn’t go there."
At which point the committee's chairman, Rep. Bill Dunn, started banging his gavel. Lawmakers then quickly voted to schedule the bill for a vote by the full House next week.
Had Mitchell been allowed to continue it's likely he would have brought up the GOP's dirty little secret: our state's licensed gunmen are compiling a truly grisly record of murder and mayhem. In five years, they have killed or been accused of killing at least 16 people. Of those murders, four happened during arguments in parking lots, including one over how close a pair of SUVs were parked. Here are the details from the Violence Policy Center:
# Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Gregory Morris Booton
Date: October 17, 2012 People Killed: 1
Circumstances: On October 17, 2012, concealed handgun permit holder Gregory Morris Booton, 49, allegedly shot John Franklin Tucker, 46, multiple times outside of Tucker’s residence. Tucker was pronounced dead the following morning. According to police, the two men had been involved in a verbal altercation over a female friend prior to the shooting. Booton was charged with first degree murder.
Source: “Murder suspect remains in Franklin County Jail,” The Herald-Chronicle, October 22, 2012; “Winchester man charged with first degree murder, WSMV-TV, October 18, 2012.
# Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Johnny Swack
INCOMPETENT TO STAND TRIAL
Date: September 7, 2011 People Killed: 1
Circumstances: On September 7, 2011, concealed handgun permit holder Johnny Swack, 52, allegedly shot his former wife, Reinalda Ann Dupont England, 36, in the face with a pistol as she slept, killing her. After the shooting, Swack called 911 and reported the shooting as an accident. He was later arrested for her murder. According to his sister Susan Swack, Johnny Swack had mental problems that were evident months prior to the shooting: “He thought people were poisoning him. He thought people were following him. He had been trying to turn himself in at police stations and he wasn’t wanted for anything so they couldn’t keep him.” Susan Swack told reporters that she had called police and asked them to take her brother’s two handguns, but he had a legal permit. Johnny Swack had been treated at a mental institution weeks before the killing, where he was diagnosed with bipolarism, medicated, and then released. Said Susan Swack, “They refused to talk to the family at the mental place. I said, ‘he’s paranoid schizophrenic. He has guns and y’all need to do something about him.’ And they released him a few days later.”
UPDATE: In July 2012, Johnny Swack was found mentally ill and committed to judicial hospitalization under involuntary commitment. According to the Deputy Clerk, Swack will be evaluated every six months to determine if he is capable of standing trial. According to the judge’s ruling, the case has not been dismissed, but is on hold until Swack can be deemed mentally fit.
Source: “Johnny Swack found mentally unfit to stand trial in murder case,” Macon County Times, July 11, 2012; “Sister of accused murderer speaks out,” WSMV-TV, September 19, 2011; “Man Arrested for First Degree Murder,” Macon County Chronicle, September 13, 2011.
# Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Shannon Scott Paul
SHOT AND KILLED DURING INCIDENT
Date: June 20, 2011 People Killed: 1
Circumstances: On June 20, 2011, concealed handgun permit holder Shannon Scott Paul was shot and killed during an argument in a shopping center parking lot. According to investigators, Paul and Ryan Dickens got into an argument while driving in separate vehicles. Both men then drove into the parking lot of the Owen Place Shopping Center, got out of their vehicles, and continued their argument. Paul, who was a concealed carry permit holder, then shot Dickens. According to police, Dickens then wrestled the gun away from Paul and shot him. Paul died from his injuries. Dickens was taken to a hospital for treatment.
Source: “One killed, one injured in shopping center shooting,” wrcbtv.com, June 20, 2011.
# Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Randolph Sims
Date: February2011 People Killed: 1
Circumstances: In February 2011, concealed handgun permit holder Randolph Sims, 34, shot and killed his girlfriend, Adrianne Watson, 35, as she walked into his apartment. According to news reports, Sims was “knocking back drinks and unloading his shotgun” when it went off, hitting Watson in the stomach as she was entering Sims’ apartment. “It was an accident,” Sims stated at his trial, “I pumped it, and it went off.” At the time of the shooting, Sims’ blood alcohol level was 0.21, almost three times the legal limit for measuring intoxication. At his trial, the Assistant District Attorney stated that Sims had been schooled on gun safety and should have known better than to handle the weapon while drinking. Immediately after the shooting, Sims told police that he had thought Watson was an intruder, a story he abandoned during his trial, stating, “That’s what I said...I’d been drinking. I was scared the police were going to charge me because I’d been drinking.” Sims was convicted of reckless homicide in July 2012
Source: “Man guilty of lesser charge in girlfriend’s death,” knoxnews.com, July 12, 2012; “Suspect in fatal shooting: ‘It was an accident,’” knoxnews.com, July 10 2012.
# Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Norman Bren Whitton
Date: April 15, 2010 People Killed: 1
Circumstances: On April 15, 2010, concealed handgun permit holder Norman Bren Whitton, 69, allegedly shot and killed fellow retiree Larry Butcher, 74, after a road-rage incident at an upscale East Tennessee retirement village. Whitton reportedly shot Butcher in the chest with a revolver after Butcher drove his golf cart into the path of Whitton’s Cadillac sedan. Sheriff Tim Guider told reporters that Whitton claimed self-defense although Butcher was not armed. Whitton was charged with second-degree murder.
Source: “Yet Another Killing Charged to State-Licensed Gunman,” Nashville Scene, April 19, 2010; “Man on golf cart fatally shot in Loudon County retirement village, another resident charged,” www.wreg.com, April 19, 2010; Database of Tennessee Handgun Carry Permits, The Commercial Appeal, www.commercialappeal.com/data/gunpermits.
# Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Michael Joe Hood
Date: March 27, 2010 People Killed: 3
Circumstances: On March 27, 2010, concealed handgun permit holder Michael Joe Hood, 49, shot and killed his sister Susan Hood Binkley, 44, her ex-husband Dale Binkley, 42, and their 13-year-old son Jackson Binkley. All four shared a house in Cheatham County. Sheriff John Holder told reporters that police were looking at two motives for the mass shooting. The first was a possible disagreement over recycling aluminum cans: Hood had placed a sign on the family’s refrigerator to collect the cans, but it had been removed. The second possible scenario was an argument over the family dog. Family members said Hood had a history of mental illness. Dale Binkley’s sister Pamela told reporters, “I don’t understand why someone who has a history of mental illness can have a legal permit to carry a gun....The police and the authorities are telling me he had permits to carry the guns that killed my loved ones. And he was on medicine, medication for mental illness. You tell me how, how does this happen?” Hood was charged with three counts of first-degree murder.
UPDATE: In June 2010 Hood pleaded guilty to the three murders and received three consecutive life sentences. Family member Pamela Binkley, who is now raising the two orphaned daughters of Dale and Susan Binkley, told the Tennessean that she planned to fight for tougher laws on getting gun permits.
Source: “Hood pleads guilty to murders,” Tennessean.com, June 16, 23010; “Murder suspect has been under suicide watch,” Tennessean.com, April 7, 2010; “3 Family Members Killed In Cheatham County,” WSMV.com, March 27, 2010; Database of Tennessee Handgun Carry Permits, The Commercial Appeal, www.commercialappeal.com/data/gunpermits.
# Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Frank Graham
Date: February 12, 2010 People Killed: 1
Circumstances: On February 12, 2010, 34-year-old firefighter, Frank Graham, shot his 35-year-old ex-girlfriend, Taffi Crawford, three times in the parking lot of Delta Medical Center. Graham had a history of domestic violence against his ex-wife and Crawford. The Memphis Fire Department terminated Graham after he had been charged with first- degree murder. Graham held a handgun carry permit.
UPDATE: On January 16, 2012, Frank Graham was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Taffi Crawford. Graham argued the shooting was unintentional, claiming he just wanted to scare Crawford, but tripped and accidentally shot her. Prosecutors argued that Crawford was shot three times and that forensic analysis showed that two of the shots were fired while she was on the ground. Graham was sentenced to life in prison and may be eligible for parole after 51 years.
Source: “Former Firefighter Found Guilty of First Degree Murder,” abc24.com, January 16, 2012; “CRIME REPORT: Memphis fires firefighter charged with murder.” The Commercial Appeal, February 17, 2010.
# Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Troy D. Whiteside
Date: August 22, 2009 People Killed: 1
Circumstances: On August 22, 2009, Troy D. Whiteside, 41, allegedly shot and killed Reginald Stacy Sudderth, 43, in a parking lot outside a clothing goods store in East Knoxville. According to news reports, neighborhood residents said the two, who had known each other for years and had competing businesses, “couldn’t stand to be around each other.” There were also allegations of arson. In the parking lot, Whiteside allegedly shot at Sudderth more than 10 times with a 9mm pistol. Sudderth was hit several times and died. Whiteside’s attorney claimed that in the lot Sudderth threatened his client and acted as though he were reaching for a weapon. The attorney representing Sudderth’s family stated that Sudderth, who was barred from possessing firearms because of a felony drug conviction, “was unarmed as he is always unarmed and known in the community not to carry weapons.” Whiteside, who was issued a concealed handgun permit on October 19, 2007, was charged with second degree murder and faces a three million dollar wrongful death suit filed by Sudderth’s family.
Source: “Update: Shooting case to keep businessman away from ORNL,” wbir.com, September 2, 2009; “Bad feelings between two East Knoxville residents went back years,” knoxnews.com, August 30, 2009; “Attorney: Whiteside killed man in self-defense,” knoxnews.com, August 24, 2009.
# Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Thomas Pate
Date: April 30, 2009 People Killed: 1
Circumstances: On April 30, 2009, Thomas Pate reported his wife missing to police, telling them that she had failed to return home after going for a run. Pate eventually gave investigators information that led them to his wife’s body. Police found her body the night of May 1 near the Loosahatchie River about five miles from the couple’s home. Pate told police he had shot his wife in the head and then threw the pistol in the river. His lawyer claimed the shooting was accidental and occurred when Micah Pate walked in front of Thomas Pate as they were target shooting. Pate had a concealed handgun permit that was issued on November 27, 2006. Pate’s wife also had a concealed handgun permit. He was initially charged with second degree murder. The charge was later upgraded to premeditated first-degree murder.
Update: In March 2011 Thomas Pate entered into a plea agreement in which he plead guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder, receiving a prison sentence of 25 years.
Source: “In last-minute agreement, Thomas Pate pleads guilty to second-degree murder,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, March 7, 2011; “Jury selection to begin for Bartlett man whose wife was shot to death,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, March 6, 2011; “Murder charges upgraded against Bartlett man,” Associated Press, September 21, 2009; “Husband charged in Tenn with Searcy woman’s death,” Associated Press, May 5, 2009; “Pate Claims Wife’s Death an Accident,” myfoxmemphis.com, May 4, 2009; “Bartlett nurse’s husband charged with second degree murder,” wmctv.com, May 3, 2009; “Neighbors Shocked Husband Arrested in Wife’s Death,” wreg.com, May 2, 2009.
# Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Austin Agee
Date: March 2009
People Killed: 2 (including shooter)
Circumstances: In March 2009, Austin Agee shot and killed Lisa Davis and dumped her body in a field where he used to ride four-wheelers. On March 7, 2009, Agee, Davis, and three other acquaintances partied together in the Beale Street entertainment district in Memphis. The group dropped Davis off at her residence early Sunday morning, but Agee is believed to have returned to the house. Friends reported Davis missing on Sunday when she failed to show up for work at Bumpus Harley-Davidson. On Tuesday, March 10, 2009, Agee fatally shot himself after detectives arrived at his residence to question him as a “person of interest” in the Davis disappearance. A note found at his residence quoted Agee as being sorry for what he had done and revealed where the body could be found. Agee had a concealed handgun permit which was issued on November 10, 2008.
Source: “Details Emerge About Tennessee Model Slain in Mysterious Murder,” FoxNews.com, March 13, 2009; “Double tragedy: Suspect’s note leads to remains of missing Bartlett woman in Lakeland field,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, March 10, 2009.
# Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Harry Raymond Coleman
Date: February 6, 2009 People Killed: 1
Circumstances: On February 6, 2009, Harry Raymond Coleman, 60, shot and
killed Robert “Dutch” Schwerin, 52, during an argument over how close their SUVs were parked. The shooting occurred outside the Villa Castrioti restaurant where Schwerin and a woman identified as Coleman’s wife were arguing over how close his GMC Yukon Denali was parked to her Hummer. Coleman retrieved his 45 caliber pistol from the Hummer and shot Schwerin in the chest. Coleman, who received a concealed handgun permit in June 2006, was charged with second-degree murder.
UPDATE: In July 2010, Coleman was convicted of second degree murder, aggravated assault, and two counts of assault. Coleman faces up to 25 years in prison without parole. After the verdict, Coleman tried to ingest a mouthful of prescription pills. During the trial, prosecutors told jurors that Coleman and his wife were not fearful that night, only angry, adding, “Poor Harry Coleman. He had to kill a man. He wants to be the first man in history to stick a gun in the mouth of an unarmed man, to stick it in the chest of an unarmed man and then to shoot him to death in front of his children and then call himself a victim.”
Source: “Coleman found guilty of second-degree murder in parking lot shooting,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, July 17, 2010; “Attorney: Accused shooter in Cordova parking-lot killing regretful,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, February 9, 2009; “In Brief: Cordova shooter appears in court,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, February 24, 2009.
# Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Martino Johnson
Date: February 23, 2009 People Killed: 1
Circumstances: On February 23, 2009, concealed handgun permit holder Martino Johnson, 34, allegedly shot and killed Terrelle Beasley with a 40 caliber pistol following a car accident in Memphis. The shooting occurred after Beasley accidently sideswiped Johnson’s Ford Taurus with his Honda Civic. Both men jumped out of their cars and began arguing. Police said Johnson pulled out his gun and shot Beasley three times. He died half an hour later. Beasley’s mother, Estella Beasley, told reporters, “If you ask me what type of person [Johnson] is, he’s a coward. He’s a coward because you don’t take nobody’s life, for no reason. Why should a real man carry a gun? What do you need one for?” Johnson, also reportedly threatened to kill an eyewitness who was trying to call 911. Johnson’s concealed handgun permit was issued on January 24, 2007. He was charged with second degree murder and aggravated assault.
Source: “Shooter threatened witness, police say,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, February 25, 2009; “Most say shooter’s actions during robbery attempt on target,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, July 10, 2009.
Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Demetria Nance
Date: December 2008
People Killed: 1
Circumstances: In December 2008, Demetria Nance shot and killed her on-again, off- again boyfriend Aaron Benton III, firing four shots from a 9mm pistol. Nance testified that after Benton decided to end their relationship she was emotionally confused and that after Benton shoved her and turned away she drew her pistol and fired—intending to hit him in the leg. Nance’s lawyer said that she had not planned in advance to shoot Benton, but that after having been robbed “it was her habit to carry the gun with her at all times in her purse.” Nance, who had a concealed handgun permit, was convicted of second degree murder in November 2009.
Source: “Woman convicted of 2nd degree murder,” The Knoxville News-Sentinel, November 13, 2009; “Trial Centers Around Intent to Kill,” The Knoxville News-Sentinel, November 10, 2009.