Officials: Woman shot by Tennessee deputies had a BB gun

Shelby County sheriff's deputies block a road leading to a house where authorities say a woman was shot by deputies on Friday, March 17, 2017 in Lakeland, Tenn. Authorities say the woman shot by deputies in the residential neighborhood in the West Tennessee city of Lakeland has died. (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz)

LAKELAND, Tenn. (AP) — Two sheriff’s deputies who fatally shot a woman Friday in a Tennessee residential neighborhood thought she pointed a real handgun at them when they opened fire, but it turned out to be a BB gun, authorities said.

Nancy Jane Lewellyn died after being shot by Shelby County Sheriff’s Office deputies in a subdivision in Lakeland, just east of Memphis, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokesman Josh DeVine said.

It was the second fatal shooting involving law enforcement in two days in western Tennessee. The bureau says a 36-year-old Louisiana man was killed after he allegedly tried to strike deputies with his vehicle in Crockett County on Thursday. The bureau, which acts as Tennessee’s state police agency, is investigating both shootings.

DeVine said Lewellyn had called 911 Friday, making disturbing statements and threatening violence toward anyone who came to her house.

Three deputies responded, and Lewellyn exited her house when they arrived, DeVine said. She then took out what appeared to be a real handgun and pointed it at the deputies, he said. Two of them opened fire, killing her.

It was determined after the shooting that Lewellyn was holding a BB gun, DeVine said. The BB gun looked “an awful lot” like a real gun, he said.

“It was presumably very easy for these deputies to think that this was a more dangerous situation than a BB gun,” DeVine said.

It is not immediately clear if Lewellyn had mental issues, DeVine said.

John Rumsey, who lives two houses away from where Lewellyn was shot, was unable to get home Friday afternoon while deputies blocked the street leading to his house. He was eventually allowed through.

“It’s just a really bad scene,” Rumsey said. “It’s usually very calm around here.”

The two deputies involved in the shooting have been relieved of duty with pay pending the bureau’s investigation, but they are not being identified at this point, sheriff’s spokesman Earle Farrell said. The races of Lewellyn and the deputies were not released.

Once the investigation is done, the bureau will hand over its file to Shelby County district attorney Amy Weirich, who will decide whether to pursue charges.

DeVine said the bureau currently has 1,800 open criminal investigations, with only 59 agents in the bureau’s field investigations unit.

“You better believe that the number of incidents, and the types of investigations that we have, certainly puts a strain resources, but this is the job,” DeVine said.