District Attorney General Ken Baldwin said he signed a letter Monday to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and talked to Jonesborough Police Chief Ron Street, about the March 19 incident on East Jackson Boulevard during the lunch rush hour. Mark Clinton Harrell Jr., 26, of Church Hill, was shot three times by Jonesborough Officer Chad Reece as the man charged at him with a large knife. The fatal shot was to Harrell’s chest.
Baldwin said he reviewed statements of officers and bystanders taken by a TBI agent as well as police body cam footage and bystander cell phone video. There was nothing to indicate the officers acted inappropriately, Baldwin said, and they had actually given Harrell multiple opportunities to drop his weapon before he charged toward them.
Reece shot Harrell after the officer repeatedly ordered Harrell to drop the machete-type knife he was holding. At one point, Harrell tripped and Reece tried to move in to subdue the man. But Harrell jumped up quickly and charged at Reece from about four feet while swinging the knife. Reece fired three shots and Harrell was struck in the chest and each arm.
Street, who witnessed the shooting, said from the beginning that his officers acted appropriately.
“There’s no doubt that’s the last resort we hope for,” Street said. “A lot of times we don’t have control of those situations. We felt all along that the actions of the offers were justified. It’s a fast-evolving situation. There’s no room for error.”
Prior to the shooting, officers were dispatched to the Country Inn and Suites, 376 U.S. Highway 11E, about suspicious activity and the presence of a man officers wanted to talk to about a drug investigation. When officers arrived, they saw the man they were looking for, Brad Selitto, in his car outside the hotel. When officers approached the car, they saw a man get out of Selitto’s car. They approached the man — later identified as Harrell — and asked if they could talk to him.
Harrell pulled a machete out and stated, “No, I ain’t going back to prison,” according to police.
At that point, Harrell raised the machete and officers pulled out their weapons to protect themselves and gave Harrell verbal commands to put the weapon down. Instead, Harrell put the machete to his own throat and began walking toward Jackson Boulevard. Other officers who responded to the scene stopped traffic in all directions on East Jackson Boulevard, created a perimeter and attempted to diffuse the situation by firing beanbag rounds.
That’s when Harrell began to cut his throat and said he would make the officers shoot him. Harrell ran into the traffic lanes, then fell near Renasant Bank at 401 W. Jackson Blvd. Reece tried to move in to subdue Harrell, but Harrell regained his footing and charged toward one of the officers, prompting that officer to fire his weapon three times out of fear for his safety and the safety of others, according to an incident report and Baldwin’s assessment of the TBI report.