The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation just announced that an investigation by their Special Agents has led to the arrest of a man from Smith County, Tennessee, for attempted first-degree murder. On November 25, 2017, District Attorney General Tom Thompson requested that TBI Agents investigate an officer-involved shooting. That night, Smith County officers responded to a shots-fired call in Gordonsville, and upon arrival, someone from a wood line began shooting at the officers. The officers returned fire, and the defendant was struck. According to the TBI’s joint investigation with local law enforcement, the defendant had gone to his son-in-law’s residence earlier that evening and fired shots at his son-in-law. The defendant is currently held on a $150,000 bond for the Criminal Attempt to Commit First Degree Murder.
Under Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-202, first degree murder is:
(1) A premeditated and intentional killing of another;
(2) A killing of another committed in the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate any first degree murder, act of terrorism, arson, rape, robbery, burglary, theft, kidnapping, aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, rape of a child, aggravated rape of a child or air craft piracy; or
(3) A killing of another committed as the result of the unlawful throwing, placing or discharging of a destructive device or bomb.
The above statute defines “premeditation” as:
[A]n act done after the exercise of reflection and judgment. “Premeditation” means that the intent to kill must have been formed prior to the act itself. It is not necessary that the purpose to kill preexist in the mind of the accused for any definite period of time. The mental state of the accused at the time the accused allegedly decided to kill must be carefully considered in order to determine whether the accused was sufficiently free from excitement and passion as to be capable of premeditation.
Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-12-101 defines criminal attempt:
(a) A person commits criminal attempt who, acting with the kind of culpability otherwise required for the offense:
(1) Intentionally engages in action or causes a result that would constitute an offense, if the circumstances surrounding the conduct were as the person believes them to be;
(2) Acts with intent to cause a result that is an element of the offense, and believes the conduct will cause the result without further conduct on the person’s part; or
(3) Acts with intent to complete a course of action or cause a result that would constitute the offense, under the circumstances surrounding the conduct as the person believes them to be, and the conduct constitutes a substantial step toward the commission of the offense.
(b) Conduct does not constitute a substantial step under subdivision (a)(3), unless the person’s entire course of action is corroborative of the intent to commit the offense.
To prove attempted first-degree murder in this case, the State will need to show that the defendant was trying to kill his son-in-law when he fired those shots. This is obviously going to be very fact specific. Where was the son-in-law when the shots were fired? Where was the defendant pointing the gun when he fired the shots? Was the son-in-law threatening the defendant or someone else when the shots were fired? I’m sure the police, the district attorney’s office, and the defense attorney(s) will closely examine the evidence to see exactly where the bullets were fired from and where they landed.