No charges will be filed in the Oct. 1 shooting death of a Tullahoma teen and the wounding of another man, Coffee County District Attorney Mickey Layne announced Friday.
According to a statement released by Layne, the shooting has been determined to be self-defense.
Austin Ferrell, 17, and George Taylor, 38, were shot on Oct. 1 at the West Grundy Street residence of Nicholas Dipietrantio, 74, when they allegedly attempted to enter his residence.
According to Tullahoma Police reports on the night of the shooting, Dipietrantonio heard the glass in the front door of his apartment shatter and
he fired two shots from inside his apartment. The first shot struck Ferrell in the chest and the second shot struck Taylor in the shoulder. Ferrell was pronounced dead at Harton Regional Medical Center, while Taylor was flown to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for treatment.
According to a statement released Friday to The News, the district attorney stated that “no criminal charges are justified against Nicholas Dipietrantonio for the shooting of Austin Ferrell and George Clay Taylor.”
Several of those living in the neighborhood claimed on the night of the shooting that Ferrell and Taylor were shot when the pair went to the residence to “borrow” a can of dog food, although the alleged shooter said that he never heard anything about a can of dog food and that he did not feed his dogs canned dog food.
Those in the apartment said they heard yelling and then the crashing of the glass in the front door.
In addition to Dipietrantonio, his girlfriend, Debra Ng, was inside the residence the night of the shooting.
Layne stated that “a defense of self defense” could be maintained as outlined by Tennessee state law.
“The evidence supports a finding that Mr. Dipietrantonio, and another member of the household, honestly held a reasonable belief of imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury,” Layne wrote in his statement. “The evidence supports a conclusion that this belief of danger was based on reasonable grounds.”
Layne stated that Dipietrantonio and the Ng “were in a place they had a right to be, their home, and were not engaged in any illegal activity. They had no duty to retreat.” He stated that he felt that when Ferrell broke the window of the front door, the occupants of the apartment were justified in discharging the firearm to prevent harm to them. “It was the only door that protected the occupants from unlawful forcible entry,” the D.A. wrote.
Layne stated he felt that the law provides a “presumption of a reasonable belief of imminent death or serious bodily injury when another person, not a household member or invited guest, unlawfully and forcibly enters a home.” In speaking on his ruling of self-defense, Layne stated that “if any part of the body of the person who broke the door intrudes into the space of the home, there is an unlawful entry and a conclusive presumption of self defense.”
The district attorney stated that the shattered glass of the door was scattered on the floor of the residence, which he stated supports the finding that an unlawful entry “did occur.” He noted that even if there was no entry made into the residence, “the evidence supports a finding of reasonable belief of imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.”
The DA said that due to what he called past and continued expressions of “hostility and the smashing of the front door” he believed that no charges are “legally justified.”
Layne stated that after the door glass was shattered and Ferrell was shot, Taylor, according to statements he made to investigators, “started to go after” Dipietrantonio, but after he was shot he was unable to “forcibly enter the home and assault” him.
Layne concluded by saying that due to the items considered he has determined from the evidence and discussing the case with those who investigated the shooting that he felt the shooting was “justified due to a reasonable belief of danger and to prevent the intended unlawful entry and assault. He also said that people of the household are entitled to the protection of the law.
Ferrell was a senior at Tullahoma High School at the time of his death.
Wayne Thomas may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.