Hixson man claims black bear charged him at Gatlinburg hotel, forcing him to fire
A Hixson man has been charged with illegal discharge of a firearm and reckless endangerment after shooting a bear outside a Gatlinburg motel last week.
Greg Sapp, 53, says he and his wife were in Gatlinburg last week visiting an old friend. He says he wished he didn't have to draw his weapon and harm the bear, but in the moment, he knew he had to react fast.
"There was only one way to react, sir. And that was either that bear or me. I had no time to even move. If I even tried to turn, it would have got me,” Sapp said.
They got back to the motel late Thursday night after spending time in downtown Gatlinburg.
Sapp says he left the door cracked while he was outside his motel room smoking. While outside, he says he heard a strange, loud noise down the hallway corridor.
His dog, Pepper, came outside the room, turned the corner and started growling.
"I looked over and it was an enormous black bear. I mean, huge. As soon as that happened, that bear jumped. The back half of that can fell and then he charged me. I mean, full rage. I heard him,” Sapp said.
He says he drew his .45 caliber-handgun from his holster and fired six shots at the bear.
"I didn't miss. I heard the bullet. And there was a blood trail. Pretty nasty one too,” Sapp said.
Sapp says the Gatlinburg Police Department responded to the motel.
"I was in a state of shock. I had everybody yelling at me. I had people threatening me, and I was just scared to death,” Sapp said.
Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) officials say the bear ran into the woods and hasn't been found.
The TWRA said in a press release if Sapp's claims are true, they won't press any additional charges.
Sapp stands by his actions, but says he wishes he never had to harm the bear.
"Never in my life have I ever experienced anything so traumatic in my life. Ever,” Sapp said.
Sapp is due in court on December 4.
The TWRA and Gatlinburg Police Department are leading the investigation.
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