MANCHESTER, Tenn. (WKRN) – Two deputies were shot by an inmate who took his own life soon after he appeared in court Monday afternoon in Coffee County.
The situation began shortly before 3 p.m. at the justice center when Michael Bell, 37, was in court for a discussion date regarding kidnapping, domestic assault, and multiple other charges he faced.
The TBI says as Deputy Wade Bassett, 71, went to get Bell for transport, a “significant struggle” ensued. The inmate was able to get the deputy’s gun and shot him one time before running downstairs.
According to authorities, Bell then shot Deputy Wendell Bowen, 56, on his way out the door.
The inmate reportedly then fled the justice center and ran about a block away, entered a home, left, and then went into a yard nearby.
Bell was then soon found dead with a self-inflected gunshot wound to the head.
News 2 spoke with Bell’s grandmother off camera. She said he spent most of his life in prison on drug charges and had just recently been released.
According to the TBI, Deputy Bassett, who was wearing a bullet-proof vest, sustained significant hand and arm injuries, as well as injuries from the bullet hitting his body armor in the abdomen area. He was transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville where he was last listed in stable condition.
Deputy Bowen was shot in the abdomen area and transported to Erlanger Health System in Chattanooga where he underwent surgery. An update on his condition wasn’t immediately released.
Both deputies have worked for the Coffee County Sheriff’s Office for over 10 years.
The investigation is ongoing, and the Coffee County Justice Center will remain closed Tuesday.
News 2 spoke to a clerk inside the building, Ruthie Frassrand, who heard the gunfire unfold in real time.
“Just sounded like a firecracker,” she explained to News 2. “We realized when someone was hollering, what was going on.”
Frassrand works with the court officers on a regular basis.
“Our court officers are really… they’re good. They’re really good guys,” she said. “They’re in our prayers.”
In the wake of the shooting, the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department says it’s reviewing its policies and procedures and looking into how deputies transport inmates from the courthouse back to jail.