Two bound over to grand jury in shootout

Becky Campbell • Jan 15, 2013 at 9:27 PM

Two people involved in a high-speed pursuit and shootout with a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper were bound over to a grand jury on charges related to the incident earlier this month.

Derrick Dakota Kitzmiller, 20, 297 Kitzmiller Road, Gray, was bound over on charges of attempted second-degree murder, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, felony reckless endangerment, speeding, failure to exercise due care and felony evading arrest.

Kitzmiller’s passenger and girlfriend, Jennifer Russell, 35, of the same address, was bound over on two charges — aiding and abetting a suspended driver and altering a license plate.

She had also faced a felony evading arrest charge that General Sessions Judge James Nidiffer ultimately dismissed. Russell’s attorney, Patrick Denton, had filed a motion to dismiss that charge and after Nidiffer listened to all the proof he granted the motion.

Prior to the hearing, Assistant District Attorney General Ryan Curtis dismissed several other charges Kitzmiller had faced. Those were failure to show financial responsibility, no seat belt, violation of the open container law and no registration. The speeding charge was amended from 115 mph in a 70 mph zone to 110 mph in a 70 mph zone.

The incident happened Jan. 3 around 2:15 a.m. when a driver on Interstate 81 in Greene County called 911 to report another vehicle tailgating him with its headlights on high and flashing a blue light.

Trooper Jeff Appleba testified at Tuesday’s hearing that he was at the THP office in Fall Branch when the call came in and left to find the vehicle.

The trooper said he got behind the vehicle and tried to stop the driver for speeding. But instead of pulling over, the driver sped up to 110 mph, then exited onto Interstate 26 and then onto Eastern Star Road. The driver continued speeding, traveling around 80 mph, until he lost control, ran off the road and hit two trees, Appleba testified.

The car spun around and stopped, facing the trooper.

When Appleba got out of his cruiser, he said heard a popping sound. He said he thought it was coming from the wrecked car, but heard it again and realized it was gunfire.

“I didn’t see gunfire or hear a gunshot,” just the popping noise, Appleba said.

He took cover and returned fire. Appleba held Kitzmiller at bay until backup arrived.

A THP investigator testified that he recovered five spent .40-caliber shell casings from inside the vehicle, but Kitzmiller told him he blacked out right after the wreck.

“He remembers everything up to the point the shots may have happened,” said Sgt. Robert Johnson.

He said Kitzmiller told him “if he had fired, he would have fired five shots toward a tree out the passenger’s window.”

Of those five possible shots, three rounds struck Appleba’s cruiser, he said.

Another investigator, Sgt. Joe Walker, interviewed Russell. He testified that she said she tried to get Kitzmiller to stop the car, but he wouldn’t and said, “I’m not going back to jail.”

After the wreck, Russell apparently saw Kitzmiller put one of three handguns in the car into her purse.

“She heard gunfire and felt shell casings hitting her. She said she looked up and saw Kitzmiller pointing a gun,” toward the windshield, Walker testified.

Kitzmiller remains jailed on $121,000 bond. After the judge dismissed the felony charge against Russell, her bond was reduced to $6,000.

Kitzmiller and Russell have an appearance in Criminal Court on March 11.

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