1 shot, killed after dispute at Opry Mills Mall; Gunman in custody


A police car sits outside Opry Mills mall Thursday, May 3, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. Nashville police said a suspect was taken into custody after a person was shot inside the mall. The mall was evacuated after the gunfire was reported. One person was taken to a hospital and was reported to be in critical […]

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A 22-year-old man has died after he was shot during a dispute at Opry Mills Mall Thursday afternoon.  

It happened at the mall, which is located at 433 Opry Mills Drive, just before 2 p.m.  

Police said words were exchanged between the men before two shots were fired inside the mall.  

PHOTOS: Shooting at Opry Mills Mall 

The victim, identified as Demarco Churchwell, suffered a neck injury and was taken to TriStar Skyline Medical Center in critical condition. He died a short time later.  

After the shooting, police said the suspect –  Justin Golson – left the mall and walked to the nearby ticket booth at the Opry House where he surrendered his gun and told someone to call police.  

A retired California police officer was at the booth buying tickets and took possession of the gun. He told the accused gunman to lay on the grass and wait for police.  

Golson was taken into custody without incident.  

Police said the shooting appears to be the result of an ongoing dispute between the men.  

Golson, who worked at a shoe shine kiosk in the mall, told detectives the feud had to do with him getting into a physical fight with a relative of Churchwell’s in March. 

“Indication this has been festering and it wasn’t a spur of the moment thing,” police spokesman Don Aaron said.  

According to police, Golson said no gun was pulled on him, though officers did recover two pistols from the purse of Churchwell’s girlfriend after she was detained as part of the investigation.

She was later identified by police as 21-year-old Alexandria Lavender. She was charged with unlawful possession of a weapon and theft of property. 

Police said there were several people who witnessed the shooting or provided aid to the victim. They, along with the suspect, will be interviewed by police.  

A pregnant woman inside the mall at the time said she thought she was going to die. 

“I thought I was going to die and that I wasn’t going to see my husband or daughter again. My daughter is a year-and-a-half. I thought she was going to grow up without a mom,” the woman said tearfully. 

The mall, Nashville’s largest shopping center, has since been cleared. 

“The mall itself is safe,” Aaron said.  

Several people inside the mall at the time took to social media and reported hiding in storage and bathrooms after the shots were fired.  

One tweet read, “There’s an active shooting situation at the mall I’m at. We heard gunshots and screams and everyone started running. Now, we are hiding in the storage room at Forever 21. This is terrifying. I can’t stop shaking.”  

Another tweet read, “Locked in a bathroom at the mall… in a store… active shooter in the mall.”  

A third tweet said in part, “Someone started shooting in the middle of Opry Mills… currently locked in the back of the Express Outlet…” 

The nearby Opryland Hotel was placed on a brief lockdown as a precaution. No one was allowed in or out of the hotel during that time.  

The McGavock Pike ramp, off of Briley Parkway, was closed to motorists for several hours.

Opry Mills Mall will remain closed the remainder of Thursday and will reopen Friday with an enhanced police presence. 

The shopping center released a statement, saying, “Opry Mills management would like to take a moment to thank the swift and courageous response of the Nashville Police Department with respect to a situation that took place earlier today on our property. We are cooperating fully with investigators and offering any assistance we can. We would direct any additional questions regarding today’s incident to law enforcement.” 

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