Sitting in his office mid-morning Thursday, Covington Mayor Justin Hanson sighed as he pushed the button to power up the Keurig behind his desk.
He said he didn’t get much sleep the night before, a night riddled with an unprecedented number of shootings in the heart of the city and several people injured by gunfire.
“No one is more troubled over this and disturbed over this than I am. I liken this kind of behavior to nothing more than domestic terrorism.”
The first set of shots rang out at 9:11 p.m. near 535 North College Street.
Police chief Buddy Lewis said 41 shell casings from three different weapons – a .40-caliber pistol, a 9mm pistol and a .762-caliber semiautomatic rifle – were recovered.
Four people, ranging in age from 14 to 51, were injured. They were taken to Baptist-Tipton and LeBonheur Children’s Hospital and with non-critical injuries.
For the next two hours sirens chased the gunshots piercing the otherwise cold, quiet evening. From North College they moved to 505 Simonton Street, then 139 Haynie and 1326 South College Street.
Two vehicles were hit on Simonton and 13 casings from a 9mm pistol were picked up. There were 19 other 9mm casings found by police on Haynie and South College, two at one location and 17 at the other.
“We were working four different active scenes at the same time,” Lewis said. “We had basically the whole department out. The (Tennessee Highway Patrol) and the sheriff’s office were out with us. You don’t know how much we appreciate that.”
While the multi-jurisdictional effort to find the suspects was in progress, deputies were in a pursuit with Danny Muex in north Covington. He wrecked his vehicle at Hwy. 51 and Rialto and went to the hospital before being booked into the jail Thursday morning.
He was charged with being a felon in possession of a weapon – one of the guns he had was the same caliber as one used in Wednesday’s shooting spree – but whether or not he was involved or it was a coincidence remains unsure.
Lewis and Hanson said the shootings were intentional and targeted.
“This isn’t random,” Lewis made sure to clarify. “Individuals were being targeted by other individuals they associate against.”
One theory is the shootings were retaliation for another shooting which took place earlier this week. The victim in that incident was shot in the arm and was uncooperative with police as they tried to investigate.
Lewis said he was questioned overnight, but has not been charged.
From here, Covington police will increase their presence and work proactively, Lewis said. Starting with Thursday’s evening shift, officers are being offered overtime to help patrol the streets.
Due to being understaffed, the department is already over its $253,000 overtime budget with five months still left in the fiscal year.
“You can’t put a price tag on public safety,” Hanson said.
Neither Hanson nor Lewis shied away from the fact the city has a problem with crime and with gangs. Hanson said he’s tried to invest every available additional dollar into public safety since he became mayor. Lewis said, respectfully, it wasn’t enough.
“I can take criticism; I have no problem and can deal with it. People criticize the police department and me for not doing what they think we need to do when we don’t have what we need to get the job done.”
Hanson said Wednesday’s shootings were another bad mark on Covington, a city he is proud to lead with people he’s proud to call neighbors. He said he is beyond frustrated with the crime.
“You have people who continue to wreak havoc on this city and its residents. There’s no good excuse for the behavior we had last night and incidents like that counteract the good in Covington. It’s heartbreaking to me, as the leader of this city, that one domestic terrorist running roughshod can negate the good. The vast majority of the citizens here are good people.”
Lewis is looking for help from the public. Anyone willing to share information with police is asked to call 901-475-1261.