A 14-hour standoff ended just after 7 a.m. Friday morning when the SWAT team shot and killed the man who held a woman hostage inside her Covington business.
The victim, whom family members have identified as Pam Dean, was able to escape her office after a sniper shot the man who had been holding her at gunpoint since Thursday night.
Covington’s interim police chief Jack Howell said officers were originally dispatched to Dean’s Tax Service, which is in a shopping center at the intersection of Hwy. 51 South and Bert Johnston Avenue, at 5:20 p.m. because of a disturbance at the business. Two minutes later, that was upgraded because the man, who was armed, had taken Dean, her daughter, and grandson hostage.
“Shortly after officers arrived, a few minutes or so, an employee of the business and her child were able to come out of the business,” Howell said. “At that time, negotiations began because he still had another hostage inside.”
The Tipton County Sheriff’s Office, state troopers, Covington firefighters, and an ambulance all made the scene and were staged for hours. Highway 51 was shut down from Sherrod to Garland Drive, traffic being routed through town.
Across the street police could be heard pleading with the suspect through a PA system.
Howell said negotiations began at about 7 p.m. Thursday and ended abruptly at 12:39 a.m. Friday.
“The suspect just cut off all communications. However, during the time of the negotiations he was up on three-way a bunch of times and said they weren’t going to make it out of there alive.”
Howell said the suspect, who has not yet been identified by police, said Dean would not make it out of the building alive.
“He said several times as we went up to the doors he said ‘I’m gonna kill her and as many of y’all as I can.”
After communications with the suspect ceased, law enforcement tried an estimated 200 times to contact him to no avail. They also used chemical agents, sheriff Shannon Beasley said, to help coax him out of the building or at least release Dean.
“Didn’t have any luck with that so at that point we were at our last resort. We had to go in and do a rescue operation.”
The SWAT team entered the business and the suspect shot at them several times.
“Just as he told us many times tonight that he was gonna do if we came in the building,” he said. “At that point, one of our deputies on the SWAT Team was shot by one of the rounds the suspect fired.”
The remainder of the SWAT Team went in to get the injured deputy out. That deputy, whose identity has not been released by police, was hit in the arm.
Beasley said they tried once more to establish communication with the suspect without any luck. Just before 7 a.m. the man left the room in which he’d been occupying for hours and deputies took a shot.
“The sniper was able to … take a shot and put the suspect down. The female hostage was able to crawl out to the deputies and that point she confirmed he had been shot.”
He said Dean was very mentally distraught and couldn’t tell them his exact condition, so deputies once again entered the building where they found the suspect was still alive.
“There were shots fired and the suspect is deceased at this time,” said the sheriff.
Television news crews were on the scene and filming at the time, catching the escape and shootout on video. In a video from WREG, Dean can be seen running with the sheriff to safety and as gunfire is heard in the building the suspect’s family, standing behind the media, can be heard crying out that he’d been killed.
Dean’s family was also on the scene. They stayed in the Star Shopping Center parking lot for the entirety of the situation. Her nieces Britney and Shataraa said they’re thankful their aunt made it out of the situation.
“Man, it’s just been something else to watch knowing your family member is in there held hostage with a gun to ’em,” Britney said. “She’s the type of person who will [literally] give the shirt off her back, I’m talking about her last dime. So we’ve been out here praying and praying, sure that God would answer our prayers he would let her go. And he let her go, he let her go. I’m very excited about that.”
They watched from the hill as the SWAT team entered, Dean was taken to safety, and the suspect was killed. They are sad it had to end the way it did.
“We hate it for his family members but he got what he deserved.”
They found out last night that the suspect went in armed and held everyone hostage, Shataraa said.
“That was my main concern, her grandkid being in there … it wasn’t nothing that serious to do it like that.”
Britney said God truly answered their prayers.
“He really does, because my cousin walked out unharmed and I could see on her face that she was happy that God still answers prayers.”
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is investigating the officer-involved shooting while the other agencies investigate the incident as a whole. The suspect was removed from the building via ambulance at approximately 12:15 p.m. Friday and the police were working to clear the scene.
The injured deputy was taken to Regional One Medical Center in Memphis where he underwent surgery and was released midday Friday.
Classes were cancelled at Covington Integrated Arts Academy and the alternative school Friday, both located on Bert Johnston, due to the ongoing situation.
The suspect is expected to be identified as soon as family members are officially notified of his death.
The Leader will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.