Man in officers' shooting sentenced to 51 years' prison

Becky Campbell • May 17, 2019 at 6:47 PM

A Carter County man who shot a sheriff's deputy in the face after officers responded to a domestic call was sentenced to 51 years in prison Friday.

Kelly Lee Pitts, 39, was convicted in January of seven counts of attempted first-degree murder and seven counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.

The incident happened on Dry Hollow Road in Carter County on Dec. 16, 2015, and two people were shot — Carter County Sheriff’s Deputy Jenna Markland in the face and Brandy Hyder in the hand.

The case was moved to Jonesborough after defense attorneys requested a change of venue because the majority of the reported victims were sheriff's deputies.

Markland was hit almost immediately after arriving on the scene.

“I honestly felt like a grenade exploded on the side of my face,” Markland testified. She said she opened the car door and got on the ground for a little cover.

Pitts testified during his trial and told the jury he wasn’t sure he was shooting at law enforcement in 2015 after having arguments with Brandy Hyder — his girlfriend at the time — and her brother, Jack Hyder.

Deputies testified that almost immediately upon their arrival, gunfire started coming at them from a mobile home where the original call about an intoxicated man with a gun came from.

Sgt. David Caldwell testified that he got out of the driver’s side and immediately heard gunfire. He had his flashlight because it was dark, but he dropped it and it rolled down the road. He took cover on the passenger’s side of the car and saw that Markland didn’t have her weapon out and asked her where it was.

“She said she didn’t know and I gave her my gun,” Caldwell said. He also instructed Markland to get on the radio to tell dispatch they were taking fire. She did that, and also relayed that she had been hit.

“I reached in and grabbed the mic and said, ‘Shots fired. Shots fired.’ ” Markland said. She knew she was hit, but didn’t know how bad it was.

“I asked (Caldwell) if I was OK. He said I was fine, but I didn’t feel fine,” Markland testified. “I remember taking my tongue and running it around my teeth. I had all my teeth, so I felt a little better. I touched my face and there was a lot of blood.”

After the shooting, Markland and Brandy Hyder were whisked away from the scene to medical personnel staged in a safer location while the Carter County and Elizabethton police SWAT teams went in to arrest Pitts.

It didn’t turn out to be such an easy task, as officers surrounded the trailer for hours before shooting in tear gas and entering to search for him. He wasn’t there, so the search spread out to the surrounding area.

On Friday, Judge Stacy Street sentenced Pitts to 15 years on each attempted murder charge and six years on each weapon count. Three of the counts run consecutive to each other for 45 years, plus six years for the gun charge.

The six years must be served at 100% with no reduction. The 15 years for shooting Markland is at 100%, but can go down to no less than 85%. The other 30 years is eligible for parole after 30% of the time served.

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