NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Police in Tennessee say investigators believe bounty hunters shot two men in a wild incident last weekend that began in a Wal-Mart parking lot, fatally wounding one of them, but that neither was the person they were trying to serve with a warrant.
Clarksville Police will ask a grand jury in Montgomery County on Monday to bring charges from the shooting, police spokesman Jim Knoll said. Police are also asking questions about who is regulating bounty hunters.
Authorities released few details about Sunday’s shooting before the case heads to the grand jury. The man who died has been identified as 24-year-old Jalen Johnson, a father of three children from Clarksville. His family says Johnson was an innocent man gunned down in a case of mistaken identity.
“Absolutely, they were out of control,” Johnson’s uncle, Toni Jenkins, said of the bounty hunters. “The objective of a bounty hunter is to identify a suspect and serve them with a warrant and bring them to jail, but that’s not what happened.”
Knoll said the bounty hunters confronted four men in a Nissan sedan parked at a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market in Clarksville just after midnight Sunday. Shots were fired and bounty hunters then chased the men for nearly seven miles, he added.
The police spokesman wouldn’t say how many bounty hunters were involved, when the shots were fired and what exactly transpired in the parking lot. It’s not clear why the bounty hunters confronted the men in the vehicle. Not one of them, Knoll said, had an outstanding warrant.
Jenkins said the men in the car with his nephew Jalen Johnson had no idea who the people in the cars were, adding they drove into the Wal-Mart parking lot and blocked in their car.
“They just thought they were some gang or something,” Jenkins said.
One of the bounty hunters smashed out a window in the car, the uncle said. The vehicle, where Johnson was a passenger in the back seat, took off because the men were afraid, he said.
The uncle said the bounty hunters started shooting in the parking lot and continued to fire while they were chasing the Nissan with Johnson and his three friends in it.
“They were shooting and ramming the car and everything,” Jenkins said.
Clarksville Police would not say whether there was a high-speed chase involving gunfire and a vehicle being rammed. But authorities said they are very troubled by what happened and the risk to the men in the vehicle and to the public.
“Any time you start firing off bullets and chasing people you’re putting the public in danger, no matter who it is,” Knoll said.
Clarksville is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northwest of Nashville near the Tennessee line with Kentucky.