A man is dead and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) is investigating after an officer-involved shooting took place around 11 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 28, inside the Tullahoma Walmart.
According to Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott, Tullahoma Police officers encountered 34-year-old Mark Wade “Cornbread” Luttrell Jr. inside Walmart at approximately 10:40 p.m. on Friday after receiving a tip he was at the store.
According to a press release from Tullahoma Police Department, Luttrell was wanted on warrants from both Coffee and Franklin counties.
The charges listed in the Coffee County warrants included failure to appear on charges of manufacturing/sale/delivery of a controlled substance, evading arrest and child support, according to Tullahoma Police. The Franklin County warrants included charges of reckless endangerment, driving on a revoked license, simple possession of a controlled substance and evading arrest.
When officers confronted Luttrell at the store, he pulled a pistol from his waistband and pointed it at the officers, prompting one officer to fire his service weapon, striking Luttrell, according to the statement issued by the Tullahoma Police Department.
Luttrell was pronounced dead on the scene.
Northcott said Luttrell’s body was transported to the Tennessee Medical Examiner’s office in Nashville for an autopsy, which took place on Monday, Dec. 31.
Preliminary results indicate Luttrell was shot “at least three times,” Northcott said, though full autopsy results are not expected for several months.
Neither of the officers’ names will be released while the investigation is ongoing, Northcott said, and the officers have been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the investigation.
According to the Tullahoma Police Department, the officer who shot Luttrell has been a certified law enforcement officer for several years. The officer joined the local department in June 2018 and had previously served as a deputy with the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department.
Northcott said the officers should return to their regular posts soon.
“I anticipate they will be back to full duty in a few days,” he said.
TBI officials said the investigation is ongoing and TBI Special Agents are being assisted by forensic scientists in order to gather "any and all relevant interviews and evidence,” including surveillance video of the incident.
The Commerce Central shopping center – including Walmart, The Shoe Department, Dollar Tree and Cato Fashions – was closed while the preliminary investigation was conducted, though the center was reopened to the public a little before noon on Saturday, officials said.
Dollar Tree officials confirmed that store’s hours were affected Saturday morning as police continued to investigate at the nearby Walmart.
Northcott denied rumors that circulated on social media of a high-speed chase immediately following the incident.
“There was no chase,” he said. “Luttrell’s wife learned of the shooting and was coming to Walmart.”
Given the nature of the incident, Northcott said, she was speeding and was stopped by Coffee County Sheriff’s deputies, but was released once the officers determined who she was.
“There will be no charges from that,” he said.
In addition to the TBI investigation, the Tullahoma Police Department announced the incident will also be reviewed internally by a panel of “experienced officers.”
Mayor Lane Curlee released a statement Tuesday morning confirming the internal review.
“On Monday morning I was briefed by Tullahoma Chief of Police Paul Blackwell and City Administrator Jennifer Moody concerning the Friday night incident at Wal-Mart,” he said. “It is extremely concerning anytime we learn of a shooting in our community, particularly involving a Tullahoma police officer. Our thoughts are with all of those affected by this incident and their families.
“I commend the department’s decision to voluntarily hand over the investigation to outside authorities, who I believe will find that the officer acted in self-defense and only as a last resort.
“In addition to the TBI’s review, the city will conduct an internal review to ensure the department’s policies and training were followed,” the mayor said.
All preliminary indications, according to local officials, are that the officers involved acted appropriately and with the safety of the public and officers in mind; though if the TBI’s investigation determines otherwise, TPD will take the appropriate measures.
“Police officers have a demanding, challenging and often dangerous job,” Curlee said. “I remain confident in the men and women of the Tullahoma Police Department [and] I am reminded of how grateful we should be there are heroes among us willing to put on the uniform, setting aside their personal safety, to work courageously at keeping our community safe. Tullahoma is a better place because of their dedication and willingness to protect us.”
Curlee also warned the community against spreading rumors on social media sites like Facebook, and to take caution when reading social media posts.
“I understand rumors are running rampant on social media and I urge people not to speculate and spread vicious and untrue rumors about this incident or any other incident,” he said. “I also urge people not to believe everything found on social media about this situation.”
Erin McCullough may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.