2 Eyewitnesses Describe Slaying Of Sgt. Tim Chapin

DA Cox Says State Is Seeking Death Penalty; Case Against Mathews Bound To Grand Jury

Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Harlan Murray
Harlan Murray

Two eyewitnesses gave graphic testimony on Wednesday morning about the April 2 slaying of veteran Chattanooga Police Sgt. Tim Chapin on Old Bird's Mill Road in Brainerd.

A nearby resident told of being outside at a yard sale when he heard gunfire and then he watched a gunbattle between Sgt. Chapin and Colorado parolee Jesse Mathews.

Harlan Murray said he then went inside his house, got a gun, and held Matthews at gunpoint until police soon arrived and handcuffed him.

Zach Brackin, an employee of a nearby pawn shop that witnesses said Mathews had just robbed, told of watching the tragic slaying from behind a nearby power transformer.

Both witnesses said Sgt. Chapin tried to tase Mathews, who unzipped his jacket, drew a second handgun, and turned to engage in a gunbattle with the officer.

District Attorney Bill Cox said the state will seek the death penalty against the 25-year-old Mathews, who was brought into court in a wheelchair and appeared lethargic. He did not speak during the three-hour hearing.

Mr. Cox said the defendant "went loaded for bear. He was going to do what was necessary to accomplish his purpose, including killing a police officer."

Special Judge Johnny Houston kept Mathews on no bond.

Charges of felony murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery were bound to the Grand Jury.

Mr. Murray, who said he suffered a stroke a couple of months ago, said he heard gunfire and told his mother, "That's not fireworks." He said he then saw something black land in the road. He said it appeared to be plastic or "like somebody blew a tire."

He said he then saw two people coming around the corner of the road. He said he saw a large man jogging and there was a policeman following him 15-20 feet behind.

Mr. Murray said he saw the officer draw his taser and fire it at the man, but he said it did not faze him.

He said he watched as the man unzipped his jacket, pulled out a handgun, turned and began striding toward the officer.

The witness said at that point, Sgt. Chapin threw down the taser and drew his own weapon. He said a gunbattle then erupted, with 12-16 shots being fired.

He said he finally saw the officer drop to the road.

At that point he said the man "turned and walked away like it was nothing."

Mr. Murray said he then told family members and a customer at the yard sale to get inside the house they had rented a month earlier at 109 Old Bird's Mill Road. He said he went inside himself and retrieved a 22 revolver.

He returned to the road and confronted the man who had shot the police officer, aiming the gun at him and telling him, "Get down." He said the man, who did not have a gun in his hands, did not comply even after he told him a second time. He said he directed, "Get down now." He said the man then knelt down.

The witness said he held a gun on the man until a police officer soon ran up and handcuffed the man.

He said when the officer turned the man over he noticed that he was wearing a bullet-proof vest.

Mr. Murray said he went for the gun "because I knew what had just happened and I wasn't going to let that person in my house."

Mr. Brackin said he was checking EBay while working the front of U.S. Money Shops at 5952 Brainerd Road next to Big Lots when a man came in wearing a brown sweater with a hood. He said the man was wearing a mask that he was adjusting as he entered the store. He said the man's eyes and mouth were visible. He was wearing black boots. He said it appeared he might be wearing a bullet-proof vest under his sweater.

Mr. Brackin said the voice sounded familiar.

He said the man, who was holding a gun on him, asked if there were any more employees in the store. He said he then took him in the back where store manager Leonard Carroll, training manager Steve Johns and associate Keith Liberty were located. He said Mr. Johns came running up last - after he had ducked into a bathroom and set off a silent alarm.

The witness said the robber directed the manager to go with him to the safe and he ordered the others to the floor. He said the robber paced back and forth behind the manager as he got into the safe after getting the combination from a drawer.

He said the man told the manager to put the money in a bag, then he asked him to get more money out of the cash registers up front.

Mr. Brackin said he was still lying face down on the floor when he heard "kind of a shout - like a surprised yelp," then gunfire.

He said, "I looked up and saw Leonard running back toward us. He yelled for us to get up and get out. We ran for the back door."

He said he ran down a ramp and to the transformer behind the store along with Mr. Liberty.

He said as they ran they saw a homeless man who was a customer at the store. "He looked up and asked what was going on."

Mr. Brackin said he then looked up and saw the robber walking down Old Bird's Mill Road "kind of casually."
He said he had gotten almost to a bend in the road when an officer yelled for him to stop. He said the robber kept walking.

He said the officer came up behind the man in his patrol car and the vehicle struck him. He said, "It didn't hit him hard. He stumbled a little."

He said the officer got out behind the door of his vehicle as the man walked on. He said, "It never once looked like he tried to run."

The witness said he saw the officer try to tase the man "but it didn't faze him at all." He said the officer then yelled something else, and the man then turned toward the officer holding a weapon. He said it had not appeared earlier that the man had a gun.

He said he then saw a puff of smoke and began to hear gunfire.

He said, "I saw someone fall."

Then he said the man continued walking toward East Brainerd Road as two officers pulled up in a car and yelled for him to stop. He said he heard more gunfire after that.

Mr. Brackin said he returned to the front of the store and saw there were 15 bullet holes in the front door.

He said a check was later made of the store records and Mathews was not listed as a prior customer.

Mr. Carroll told of being at his desk in the back when the robber burst in with a gun on Mr. Brackin.

He told of opening the safe and handing the robber over $1,000. He said the man spotted some jewelry in the safe and asked for it. But he said it was taking a while to get it out, so the robber told him to go up front and get money from the registers instead.

He said while at the registers he reached and set off a silent alarm without the robber noticing. He said about that time the robber warned him not to set off an alarm.

He said he had just finished getting money from the second register and had placed a total of around $2,900 in a black pillow that the man had with him when officers arrived in front of the store and the shooting started.

The manager said Kathleen Mathews, mother of the defendant, had come in the store on March 8 and sold three diamond rings.

Mr. Leonard said he had been robbed at gunpoint once before - about 20 years earlier at a Krsytal located within about a mile of the pawn shop.

He said after the Saturday morning shooting the store did not reopen until Monday afternoon.

Officer Lorin Johnston told of responding to the robbery in progress call. He said he had been just across Brainerd Road at the closed Prebul dealership and got there very quickly.

He said he could see a person standing in the middle of the store. He said he saw the man rise up holding a gun. He said the robber began firing and he returned fire.

At one point, officer Johnston said he went to the trunk of his patrol car to take out an AK15 Bushmaster. He said he went around the side of the pawn shop and past a patrol car that had the windshield shot out.

He said he began to feel a pain between his shoulder blades and he lay down. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital and it was found that he had been hit by a shot there that had glanced off his vest. He was treated and released.

But he said about an hour later he noticed a bloody burn mark on his calf, and he was taken by ambulance back to the hospital. He said that was apparently a bullet that had richoted and hit him.

He said he was shot at once before - in 1994 - but was not injured then.

Lead Detective James Tate said Mathews had at least two handguns with him - a 45 caliber Glock and a 40 caliber Glock. He said a Colt AR15 military rifle was found in a vehicle he drove to the scene and parked at the Dollar General Store.

He said that Kia Spectra belonged to a girlfriend, Katrina Gordy.

Det. Tate said the 45 Glock was found a few feet in front of Sgt. Chapin's patrol vehicle. It had a magazine in it and appeared to have live rounds in the magazine.

He said the 40 Glock was found on down Old Bird's Mill Road. It was out of ammunition.

He said a single shot struck Sgt. Chapin at the bridge of his nose.

Det. Tate said at least four officers fired a total of about 40 shots at the robbery scene.

He said Mathews has not made any statement. He said Det. Justin Kilgore attempted to speak with Mathews on the night after the incident at the hospital, but he was unable to speak.

He said the TBI, the FBI and ATF are all involved in the investigation.

Mathews is represented by Karla Gothard, Mary Ann Green and Jane Buffaloe of the public defender's office.

Marlon Duane Kiser, who was convicted of killing county deputy Donald Bond, was represented by Ms. Gothard and Ms. Green.

Family members of Sgt. Chapin watched from the front row.



Zach Brackin
Zach Brackin

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