Tipton County deputies and Covington police officers were cleared this week in two officer-involved shootings from 2013.
Hearing evidence in the incidences where 26-year-old Jake Ramsey Maese-Murphy and 69-year-old Natella Ruth Blackwell were fatally shot last fall, the Tipton County Grand Jury agreed with the findings and recommendations of both the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the district attorney that the use of deadly force by the officers was justified, proper and necessary to stop the further threat of deadly violence being presented at the time.
“There is no question that the deputies acted legally, appropriately and just as they were trained to do when confronted with such a dangerous and unpredictable situation,” said district attorney Mike Dunavant.
On Oct. 26, 2013, deputies were conducting a probation compliance check on Watkins Road in Drummonds when confronted by Murphy. They were there to make sure Murphy's father, Gerald, was abiding by the rules of his probation when Jake, armed with a knife at the back of the house, confronted and threatened the deputies.
Deputies tased the 26-year-old who responded by removing the probes and running out of the house. Jake was then at the front of the house, telling deputies he had a gun, when he was shot and killed.
Marijuana was recovered from a vehicle on the Murphy property and toxicology reports showed Jake had methadone in his system at the time of his death.
"It is also clear from the circumstances of the shooting incident that Murphy was a dangerous and violent subject who posed a serious and immediate risk of serious bodily injury or death to both law enforcement officers as well as other persons in the immediate area," said Dunavant.
Just eight days later, on Nov. 3, deputies were dispatched to Marshall Road in Munford after a suicidal Blackwell left her home on foot with a gun. The grandmother was located at Walmart in Covington and witnesses told police she'd been firing the weapon before they'd arrived.
She was asked to drop the gun, but didn't. After pointing her gun at the officers and deputies, she was shot multiple times and died at the scene.
"Blackwell disregarded all commands and did not comply, despite being given ample opportunity to comply with their commands to drop the handgun."
An interview with Blackwell’s husband revealed that she had a history of suffering from depression and suicidal ideations. According to public records, Blackwell was previously arrested for reckless endangerment in 2011, in which her husband was shot in the leg during another of her suicide attempts.
The officers involved in the shootings were Covington Corporal William Nelson, Tipton County Sheriff's Office Deputy Wesley Ballard, TCSO Sergeant Sean Cullen, TCSO Deputy Tyler Huelsing, TCSO Deputy Eddie Walker, Deputy Jason Allen, Deputy Demario Avery and Tipton County Sheriff's Office Investigator Brandon Williams.
Sheriff Pancho Chumley, whose brother was killed by an armed man during a 1997 standoff in Covington, said their officers are following their training.
“Things can go very bad in a split second and officers have to make split-second decisions in life-threatening situations and that is why we reinforce and are so heavy on training,” he said following the shooting. “These officers did what we encourage every officer to do and what we hope for them to do and that is being able to go home safely at the end of their shift.”