LA VERGNE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Authorities urged residents in a certain part of La Vergne to shelter in place for hours while they searched for an “armed and extremely dangerous” suspect following a shooting that sent two officers to the hospital Saturday afternoon.
The La Vergne Police Department (LVPD) said the two officers were called to the Dollar General in the 600 block of Stones River Road shortly before 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21 to investigate a stolen vehicle picked up by the city’s license plate reader software.
According to authorities, the officers ended up in a struggle with an individual, who pulled out a handgun and fired at the officers.
Officials said one of the officers, who has been with the LVPD for nearly three years, suffered a gunshot wound to the rear left shoulder while the other, who has been with the LVPD for about 18 months, was shot in the right groin and right forearm.
Both officers were reportedly transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. As of 7:50 p.m., one officer has been released while the other, who is in stable condition, is still being evaluated by hospital staff, according to the City of La Vergne.
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The department posted about an “active police incident” shortly after 3 p.m. at Stones River Road and Lake Forest Drive. Community members were advised to stay away from that area and seek alternate routes.
Then, at 3:38 p.m., police instructed residents in the Stones River Road area near Lake Forest Drive to shelter in place and lock their doors due to an “active threat.”
According to authorities, the suspect in the shooting — who is still at large — was described as a man between 35 and 40 years old who is 5-feet 11-inches tall with a muscular build, dreadlocks, and facial hair. He was reportedly last seen heading north on Stones River Road from the Dollar General, wearing a hat, a black t-shirt with a white hockey mask emblem on the front and red lettering, and gray pants.
Shortly after Saturday afternoon’s news conference, the LVPD posted a photo of the suspect — identified as 38-year-old John C. Drake Jr. — at the scene, as well as a mugshot:
Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake released the following statement about the suspect, who he identified as his son:
I am shocked and deeply saddened to learn that my estranged son, with whom I have had very minimal contact over many years, is the suspect in this afternoon’s shooting of the two La Vergne police officers. My thoughts and prayers are with the two officers, who I understand are now in stable condition at Vanderbilt.
Despite my efforts and guidance in the early and teenage years, my son, John Drake Jr., now 38-years-old, resorted to years of criminal activity and is a convicted felon. He has not been a part of my life for quite some time. He now needs to be found and held accountable for his actions today. I hope that anyone who sees him or has information about him will contact law enforcement immediately.
Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Connell also shared a statement in the aftermath of the shooting, saying, “My heart goes out to Chief Drake, his family, and the two wounded LaVergne police officers. I know that despite our best efforts — including in their early years — we can’t be responsible for the choices of family members. I support Chief Drake and stand by him at this difficult time. He is the right Chief of Police for Nashville.”
Residents in the Lake Forest area responded to the Nashville police chief’s announcement with sympathy.
“He is a father, and I know he loves his child, so that just breaks my heart. I can’t imagine what he’s going through, but also he has brothers and sisters in the force that he needs to take care of and he has done that,” one neighbor, who preferred to remain anonymous, told News 2.
Officials have confirmed multiple law enforcement agencies are assisting with the search effort for this “armed and dangerous” suspect in La Vergne, including the Nolensville Police Department, the Metro Nashville Police Department, and Tennessee Highway Patrol.
As Saturday’s manhunt continued into the night, community members remained behind locked doors, but they said they were comforted based on the response they could see right outside their windows.
“What was a scary situation and could be, like, seriously frightening…but instead, we were comforted to know that they were out there and doing their job, doing the very best that they could, and we were able to get that anxiety level down,” the neighbor explained.
Meanwhile, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), which is investigating the shooting, issued a Blue Alert late Saturday night for John Drake Jr., who is wanted for two counts of attempted first-degree murder. The agency said he should be considered “armed and extremely dangerous.”
Just after 11:15 p.m., the LVPD announced the shelter-in-place order has been lifted in the area around Stones River Road and Lake Forest Drive, saying, “There is no immediate threat to the public. We are continuing our search efforts but ask everyone to remain vigilant. If you see something, say something.”
If you see anyone matching the suspect’s description, you are asked to call 911. If you have any information about Saturday’s shooting or John Drake Jr.’s whereabouts, you are asked to call the LVPD at 615-793-7744 or the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.
Police have not shared any additional details about Saturday’s incident.
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This is a developing story. WKRN News 2 will continue to update this article as new information becomes available.