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The Knoxville News-Sentinel, (TN)

October 11, 1996


A Knoxville Police Department sergeant shot and killed a 29-year-old man Thursday after he threatened police and family members with a butcher knife, authorities said.   Michael Christopher Painter died from a single gunshot wound to the head following a family dispute and a stand-off with police outside his 3726 Reagan Ave. house in West Knoxville, Police Chief Phil Keith said.

KPD Sgt. Randy Carman, a 17-year veteran of the department, fired the fatal shot and has been placed on administrative leave with pay, pending the outcome of a routine internal investigation.   Also placed on temporary leave with pay were Sgt. Cindy Daniels, a five-year veteran; Officer John Shelton, a three-year veteran; and rookie Officer Todd Smith. Those three officers did not fire their weapons but were placed on paid leave until they are evaluated, Keith said.

It was the third fatal shooting by a KPD officer this year.  “In all three cases, you have vicious attacks on police officers” that prompted the shootings, Keith said.   Painter had a criminal record and a history of suicide attempts, Keith said.

Keith said Painter was armed with a 12-inch butcher knife and repeatedly threatened to kill himself and the officers. Carman shot Painter after Painter  “raised the knife to an attack point,” Keith said.    The incident began at 11:15 a.m. when Painter’s sister, Kathy Lamons, called E-911 and stated,  “My brother is tearing the whole house up.” Lamons told a E-911 call processor her brother was not armed or drunk.  “He’s just this way,” she said.

Seven minutes later, a next-door neighbor called E-911 and said Painter had a knife and was outside “screaming and yelling.”   Citing Painter’s size, the neighbor advised:  “You need some big cops out here.” Painter was 6-feet, 1-inch tall and weighed 412 pounds.

Shelton, Smith and Carman arrived at the house a short time later. Within seconds, Carman told a police dispatcher to call the professionally staffed Knoxville Mobile Crisis Unit which is operated by the Overlook Center, a mental-health facility. Minutes later, the dispatcher told Carman she was “on the line” with an MCU operator at about 11:39 a.m.   “Tell them this is an extreme emergency,” Carman said.  “You might advise them he is armed and we’re armed, and we’re at a standoff right here in the front yard.”

A few more minutes passed, and the dispatcher told Carman the MCU operator had said  “their staff didn’t come in until (noon) and then it’d be another 15 minutes before anybody can get out there.”   “This guy is sitting out here in the front yard with a big butcher knife, threatening to kill himself and one of us if we approach him,” Carman states on an E-911 tape of the incident.   At 12:03 p.m., Painter was shot. There was no radio traffic recorded on the regular West Sector police channel immediately preceding the shooting.

Keith said Painter had been involved in a domestic dispute with his brother over the care of their wheelchair-bound mother. Keith said Painter and his brother had had an argument Wednesday when Painter poured orange juice on his mother.   Painter slashed his brother’s car tires and used a concrete block to break out the windows on his own car during that dispute, Keith said.   “He also physically bent the trunk of (a) car,” Keith said. “He (was) a very strong individual.”

Keith said Painter had tried to kill himself on three separate occasions earlier this year, each time taking a large amount of anti-depressants.

Painter had served time in prison for aggravated burglary, sexual battery involving an elderly woman and  “multiple thefts,” Keith said.    Keith complained that KPD is  “seeing more and more of these types on the streets” because of the  “deinstitutionalization” policies instituted by mental-health facilities nationwide.

Keith said he did not blame MCU officials for failing to immediately respond to the call, adding,  “They have a very limited staff. They’re extremely valuable, and there’s not enough resources.”    Vanda Scott, a spokeswoman for MCU, said the unit did not violate any standard of care in the case.   “We will respond to a call within one hour,” she said.  “That’s an industry standard.”

Record Number: 1996285012
Copyright (c) 1996 The Knoxville News-Sentinel