Shootout with armed man, bail bond agents, police startle Hendersonville neighbors

Crime Tracker

Tense moments overnight as gunfire erupted in a quiet Hendersonville neighborhood along Ivy Drive.  

A man with a shotgun reportedly fired at bail bondsmen and then at Hendersonville police.  

The man is now identified as John Lankford. He has a TBI criminal history that’s 13 pages long, filled with felonies and dates back to the early ‘90s. 

Tuesday night, three bail bond agents went to pick him up on a failure to appear warrant and he reportedly opened fire with a shotgun. 

At first light, you could see the front window was broken and shattered glass on the porch.  

This is where Hendersonville SWAT units launched a flash-bang device while trying to apprehend Lankford, according to witnesses.  

The 54-year-old reportedly fired a shotgun multiple times at police and the three bail bonding agents who came to serve a warrant just after 7:30 p.m.   

Donnie Jordan with Radar Bonding Company holds the $30,000 bond on Lankford for failure to appear. 

“We instruct our people never go by yourself, always go with a minimum of one other. You never know what you are walking into,” said Jordan.  

One of the bonding agents was Debbie Szostecki. She and another female bonding agent were on the front porch trying to deal with Lankford. Szostecki told News 2 one of the women had a brief physical confrontation with Lankford, who ultimately gets a hold of a shotgun and opens fire multiple times, threatening to kill everyone.  

“He definitely shot at us, he shot at all of us,” the third bail bond agent says.  

Tim Word was providing backup and was watching the back door when things erupted. 

“They called me on the radio and said get up front quick quick,” said Word. “The guy came out the door with the shotgun shooting” 

According to Word, a 10-year vet with a wife and kids, things got crazy fast as multiple shots began ringing out.  

“I’d imagine it was 8-10 shots. Yes, we were running for our lives. People don’t realize how dangerous this job is, like police when we walk out the door to pick someone up, we don’t know if we are coming back or not.” 

Jordan says Lankford failed to make it to court because he was in the hospital for mental health issues.  

“Thank God they weren’t hurt. You are always nervous about that and frightened for your people and rightfully so because you don’t know what you are walking into,” said Jordan.  

Lankford escaped only to be arrested later that night in East Nashville.   

He’s now in the Metro jail. He’s Charged with three counts of attempted murder, aggravated assault, and possession of a weapon during the commission of a dangerous felony. 

As you might expect, residents on Ivy Drive were also scared. 

Cynthia Watkins, a Hendersonville resident, says she heard the loud gunfire.  

“We looked around and there were police everywhere. They were yelling for people to go inside. we went inside, heard gunshots again.”   

Watkins has lived on Ivy Drive for 12 years and says it was crazy. This wife and grandmother says moments are tense as she lays on the floor with her grandchild waiting for things to calm down. She says she has seen him walking his dog in the neighborhood and he has been nice.  

But she also says there have been previous incidents at his home at the end of the block. 

“Seems like the last time he was barricaded in his house it was suicidal issue.”  

Around midnight, Watkins says the street is once again alive with Hendersonville police officers looking for Lankford. 

“We think we saw SWAT. They were under our tree. Police all coming out of their vehicles and going down there, and they were measuring our yard it was frightful, and in your own neighborhood.” 

The bonding agents were at his home to arrest him because he missed his court date on aggravated assault and weapons charges.  

Nobody was hurt. 

According to an arrest warrant dated Nov. 25, 2018, Lankford was on 2nd Avenue North making statements about horse carriages, when a driver came close to Lankford.  

The affidavit says he was going to shoot the horse. he then reportedly pulled out a long-barreled handgun and pointed it at the victim and her horse. He then left. Officers found Lankford and charged him with aggravated assault and felon in possession of a handgun. 

News 2 is tracking crime where you live with CrimeTracker reports. Click here for more coverage.

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