LEBANON, Tenn. (WKRN) — There were some crazy moments in Lebanon Monday night after an off-duty reserve police officer from Gallatin confronted a man who had what appeared to be a gun at a shopping center.
Thanks to that officer and 911 callers, Lebanon Police recovered the weapon and took the suspect, 38-year-old Robert Smith, into custody.
It all began outside the Burkes Outlet store at the Cedars Square shopping center on South Cumberland Street. It was here that 911 calls poured into Lebanon Police dispatchers about a man, later identified as Smith, who was allegedly arguing with a woman armed with a baseball bat.
911 Caller: “I’m sitting in the parking lot and this guy just hit this woman. I’m afraid to get out of my car. And can you hurry please? These two guys are looking for them and they’ve got guns, I don’t know.”
Before police arrived, Gallatin Police reserve officer Jordan Higgins responded. Higgins, who is in his early 20s, is an unpaid volunteer officer. According to his police chief, Higgins is commissioned to carry a weapon and certified to do things that a police officer does. While he is not in uniform, he is armed with a weapon.
Higgins went to confront Smith, who then brandished a gun. Officers say it was a BB gun that looked very much like a .357 revolver.
In the diminishing sunlight, police said it would be very difficult for Higgins to know if the weapon was really a gun or a BB gun.
During this time, Higgins remained calm and kept his own gun holstered. Police say Smith did nothing aggressively that would provoke Higgins. Smith got into a car and then fled the area.
Gallatin Police Chief Don Bandy said this of Higgins, “We are glad he was not hurt. He thought it was a real gun. So I think, at that point, he showed restraint and stayed away. We’re very proud of him, yes.”
Lebanon Police were hot on the trail of Smith, finding the discarded BB gun at a monument company on South Maple Street. Smith was found at a local auto parts store and arrested without incident.
In the end, police say the woman with the baseball bat wielded it at Smith during a drug deal that went bad. It appeared that the woman paid for drugs that she didn’t receive.
We asked Sergeant PJ Hardy with Lebanon Police Department about the realistic looking BB gun and why someone would display it.
“Well, you got a lot of bad guys who do a lot of stupid things,” said Sgt. Hardy.
Sgt. Hardy said Smith is lucky that Higgins did not pull his handgun and fire at Smith believing the BB gun was real.
Smith was charged with aggravated assault, and has already bonded out of jail. The woman with the baseball bat was not charged in connection with this crime.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation tells News 2 that Smith has no previous criminal history in Tennessee.