Man accused in Walmart parking lot shooting sentenced to three years

John Thompson • Jan 23, 2020 at 10:17 PM

ELIZABETHTON — A man who had been facing charges of attempted second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery and aggravated robbery in a 2018 shooting at the Walmart in Elizabethton was sentenced to three years in prison this week.

Brandon Ronnie Rhea, 20, saw his attempted murder and conspiracy charges dismissed in a plea agreement on Wednesday. His third charge of aggravated robbery was amended to robbery.

Judge Lisa Rice sentenced Rhea to three years in prison. He was categorized as a standard offender, which means he must serve 30 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole. He was given credit for pretrial confinement from Nov. 21, 2018, until Nov. 30, 2018, and from March 7, 2019, until Jan. 22, 2020.

Police said Rhea was one of three people involved in a shooting in the parking lot of Walmart on Nov. 18, 2018, at 7:21 a.m. The other two were identified as Michael Arnold, 22, and Jonelle Obrien, 19.

According to a news release issued by the Elizabethton Police Department, the shooting iwas the result of a planned robbery that was to take place during a sale of illicit drugs.

Chief of Police Jason Shaw said that at the same time police arrived at Walmart, Lucas Paul Bulla, 19, arrived at the Sycamore Shoals Hospital Emergency Room with a gunshot wound to the chest.

Shaw said the resulting investigation revealed Bulla and a friend, Edward Wayne Sargent Jr., had arranged to meet a woman in the Walmart parking lot for a drug sale. The woman, Obrien, arrived for the appointment with Arnold and Rhea.

Shaw said Obrien and Arnold entered Sargent’s vehicle, parked in Row 1, to purchase the narcotics. Shaw said Arnold was seated in the back seat. After obtaining the drugs, Arnold displayed a pistol and demanded all the valuables from Sargent and Bulla. An argument took place after Sargent and Bulla resisted the robbery attempt and got out of the vehicle.

Shaw said that after Bulla got out of the car he was shot once in the chest by Rhea, who was seated in the driver’s seat of Obrien’s vehicle.

Both vehicles left the scene. Sargent drove Bulla to the emergency room, where he was treated for entry and exit of a gunshot wound to the chest. A .40-caliber shell casing was found at the scene.

Shaw said that after fleeing the scene, Arnold and Obrien assisted Rhea in avoiding apprehension. With the assistance of the Johnson City Police Department, Arnold and Obrien were arrested two days later. Rhea was arrested a day after them.