Truck recovered from Walmart theft, shooting - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Truck recovered from Walmart theft, shooting

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Tavares Johnson didn't pay much attention when he arrived home to find a silver Ford F-150 pickup parked in front of his neighbor's home on Elder Street Tuesday afternoon.

"It looked like it belonged," he says. "But when I saw the bullet holes, I went wow!"

Johnson's neighbor called Chattanooga Police early Wednesday afternoon. Upon arrival, they confirmed the truck matched the description of the pickup reported stolen out of the parking lot of the Brainerd Walmart a day earlier.

A bullet has crazed, but not shattered the windshield directly in front of the driver's seat. The tailgate has at least two holes. Another hit below the rear window, directly under the passenger seat.

All are consistent, Chattanooga Police say, with how the truck's owner told them he reacted, when he saw a man stealing it.

"(He) ends up pulling his handgun out." CPD spokesman CPL Nathan Hartwig says. "And firing several rounds at the suspect."

CPL Hartwig says no bystanders or other vehicles got in the shooter's line of fire. Detectives from CPD's Auto Theft Division found no evidence that the suspected thief, or a young woman believed to have been with him, were hit either.

As of early Wednesday evening, police had not determined whether the truck owner's conduct warrants criminal charges.

"That's under investigation," CPL Hartwig says. "The justification of why he shot at him."

Police have not identified the shooter, except to say that he holds a valid permit to carry a handgun in Tennessee.

"The law clearly states that your life has to be threatened, or that you have to be facing bodily harm," says John Martin, owner of Shooter's Depot, a licensed firearms dealer in Eastern Hamilton County.

Martin's instructors, including several law enforcement officers, teach the course Tennessee requires for obtaining carry permits.

"It's only about 25 percent range time," Martin says. "About 30 percent of it is the legalese, so that you know when Tennessee's Stand Your Ground Law applies."

Revised in 2007, the law states that a lawfully-permitted gun owner has "no duty to retreat before threatening or using force intended or likely to cause death or serious injury" if the gun owner "has a reasonable belief that there is an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury."

The law further states that any person using such force "within a residence, dwelling or vehicle is presumed to have held a reasonable belief of imminent death or serious bodily injury to self, family, a member of the household or person visiting as a guest," if he/she had not used that force against an attacker who had "unlawfully or forcibly entered the residence, dwelling or vehicle."

"The law allows defense, not pursuit," Martin maintains. "You can't chase somebody just to keep him from stealing your stuff, or because he's in your front yard."

Police have not said how far away the pickup's owner may have been when he opened fire on the alleged thief.

They also have not said whether the owner told them he felt threatened, once the suspect became aware that he was trying to thwart the theft in progress.

Tavares Johnson has no doubts about how he would have reacted.

"My girlfriend and I came home April Fool's Day two years ago, and we'd been broken into, he says. "First thing I thought of, was what if she, or my son had been here.?"

"My truck, my house, it's all part of my family," Johnson says.

"We work too hard for it for somebody to take it in broad daylight and think nothing is gonna happen to him? "

"I don't promote violence. But you've got to do what you've got to do to protect what you have."

Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this developing story.

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