Shooting near Watts Bar nuclear plant; feds search for gunman - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Shooting near Watts Bar nuclear plant; feds search for gunman

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SPRING CITY, TN (WRCB) - Channel 3 is learning more about a federal probe into a shooting at one of the Tennessee Valley Authority's nuclear plants.

The gunman has not been caught.

It happened near the Watts Bar nuclear power plant in Rhea County around 2 a.m. Sunday on the north side of the Tennessee River on TVA property. 

The FBI is leading the investigation.

"When the officer came around the patrol path, one individual was on the shore. They challenged him. They spoke for a few seconds. The officer didn't believe there was any danger," TVA spokesperson Jim Hopson says.

But the TVA officer quickly learned he was in danger when a man wearing a dark hoodie, who'd left his small boat, pulled a handgun and fired at least two shots at him from near an old concrete boat ramp. The officer fired back.

"To protect the health and safety of the general public, is to ensure those who may want to interfere with our safety system or the reactor itself, don't have that opportunity," Hopson says.

The officer was not hit with any of the bullets, just his patrol car. He quickly took cover and radioed for backup.

"By the time we had additional security officers respond to the area, the individual had gotten in the boat and had gone downstream," Hopson says.

"People are a lot more corrupt than they used to be and it'll just get worse," fisherman Gary Lewis says.

Despite backing up to the plant's perimeter, this area of the Tennessee River is open to fishermen, although signs clearly state no firearms allowed, and no docking on the TVA side. After 9/11, a different area was blocked off from fishermen altogether.

"It just keeps cutting us out from doing the things we enjoy to do, and it's people like that that makes it worse on everybody else," Lewis says.

For several hours following the shooting, the plant was put on a security alert, though it was the lowest of the four levels.

Federal officers did an in-depth search of the area, and have since lifted the alert. They're just thankful the suspect was stopped at the edge of the property.

TVA says the man was nowhere near sensitive portions of the plant, but the feds are still looking for the gunman and his motive.

Again, the only description is a man wearing a dark hoodie on a "John boat."

If you've heard or seen anything that may help investigators, you're asked to call the Rhea County Sheriff's Office or the FBI.

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