FIRST ON 3: Man pulls gun and attempts to shoot deputies at Athe - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

FIRST ON 3: Man pulls gun and attempts to shoot deputies at Athens Walmart

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In photo from body camera: Womac's left hand bringing the gun up and cocking the hammer with his thumb so it will fire, with customers just feet away on the right. In photo from body camera: Womac's left hand bringing the gun up and cocking the hammer with his thumb so it will fire, with customers just feet away on the right.
MCMINN COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

A wanted man on parole for murder drew a pistol on McMinn County deputies as they attempted to arrest him at the Athens Walmart on Saturday, and the sheriff says the officers' actions likely saved lives in the crowded store.

At about 1 p.m. off-duty Narcotics Detective Jared Price recognized a wanted suspect, Ricky Lee Womac, 44, of Charleston, while shopping in the Athens Walmart. Price  kept surveillance on the suspect until Deputies Paul Redrup and Dylan Presswood arrived, according to McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy.

“At that point, Mr. Womac was at a cash register,” Guy said. “Deputy Redrup approached him from behind and told him he was under arrest. Womac pretended to place some money in his left coat pocket, and that was when he drew a 22 caliber magnum handgun and cocked it. Both deputies grabbed Womac, and Deputy Redrup was able to place his hand in the revolver's action.  Womac attempted to fire the weapon, but the hammer came down on Redrup's hand.”

Guy stated that Price, Presswood, and Redrup wrestled Womac across the aisle and into the nail salon where he was subdued.

“These officers were faced with a deadly force encounter from an armed and dangerous suspect who tried to shoot them. They had every right to shoot Mr. Womac, and would have been justified in doing so,” Guy said. “But they relied on their overall training, and by not utilizing their own firearms these officers put themselves in danger for the sake of the safety of the other people in a crowded Walmart. I'm very proud of the job they did. This could have been a very bad situation.”

Records show that Womac has a violent past. He served over two decades in prison for the murder of Leck Nunley in 1989 at the old McMinn County Jail and was released on parole within the past year. He recently fled from McMinn deputies on a traffic stop and was charged by both McMinn County deputies and Calhoun police with evading arrest, theft, drug possession, and possession of a firearm, all within the past month.

The warrants served on him Saturday were for failing to appear in court on those charges. Due to the incident at Walmart, Womac also faces charges of three counts of attempted murder, resisting arrest, reckless endangerment and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Redrup was wearing a body camera the department began testing just the day before. Still photographs the sheriff released from the body camera video show Womac drawing and cocking the firearm with the checkout clerk and another customer with a child only a few feet away. Guy stated that there were over 50 people in the immediate area of the checkout lanes when Womac drew the gun."

"It could have been a terrible ending," Guy said. "But the deputies reacted quickly to a dangerous man, especially Redrup, and their actions kept anyone else from being in danger or injured. Officers nationwide make these same split second decisions all over the country everyday. These guys reacted so quickly, its possible few people even realized the danger they were in."

Womac remains in custody on $500,000 bond. He will face arraignment this week, and Guy said his office may also pursue federal firearms charges.

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