Man allegedly involved in THP shootout indicted on more serious charges

Becky Campbell • Mar 5, 2013 at 9:45 PM

A Gray man charged with shooting at a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper after a lengthy chase and crash was indicted by a Washington County grand jury this week on more serious charges than he originally faced.

Derrick Dakota Kitzmiller, 20, 297 Kitzmiller Road, was indicted on charges of attempted first-degree murder, felony evading with risk of death, reckless endangerment, criminal impersonation, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, driving on a suspended license with a prior DUI and speeding 110 in a 70 mph zone.

Kitzmiller had been bound over at a January preliminary hearing in Washington County Sessions Court on an attempted second-degree murder charge, but Assistant District Attorney General Erin McArdle said the charge presented to the grand jury was increased for several reasons.

“He fired more than one shot. It shows premeditation. He knew he was running from an officer. … The only reason he stopped was because he wrecked,” she said.

Kitzmiller also faces a second handgun-possession charge that stems from a witness observing him with a weapon a few days prior to the chase with the THP.

Kitzmiller’s girlfriend, Jennifer Russell, 35, was indicted on charges of criminal impersonation, allowing an unlicensed driver to drive and altering a license plate.

The criminal impersonation charges were levied because Kitzmiller was operating some type of blue flashing light on Russell’s vehicle, which caused other drivers to think they were being pulled over. That’s what alerted the THP to Kitzmiller’s erratic driving on Interstate 81 around 2:15 a.m. Jan. 3.

When Trooper Jeff Appleba attempted to stop the offending vehicle, Kitzmiller sped up and continued onto Interstate 26, then exited onto Eastern Star Road and turned onto Hog Hollow Road. Kitzmiller lost control in a curve, ran off the road and hit two trees.

Appleba testified at a preliminary hearing in January that he got out of his cruiser and heard several popping noises. He though it was the wrecked car at first, but quickly realized it was gunfire. Appleba took cover and returned fire, at least 14 rounds, according to testimony at that hearing.

Neither Appleba, Kitzmiller nor Russell was hit in the exchange of gunfire.

Kitzmiller remains jailed on $121,000 bond. Kitzmiller and Russell are scheduled to appear in Criminal Court on March 11.

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