MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WKRN) — Police are still on the lookout for several suspects after an online marketplace meetup resulted in a shootout at a popular Mt. Juliet shopping center Friday evening.
The Mt. Juliet Police Department said it responded to the Target parking lot at Providence Marketplace around 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10 after reports of gunfire, including a bullet that hit the window of a nearby Red Robin. Two off-duty officers who had been eating at the restaurant jumped into action before other officers joined them at the scene.
Upon further investigation, police said they learned a Smyrna man and his wife drove to the parking lot to sell a firearm to someone they met online.
“While the husband, an adult male, was outside of his vehicle meeting the person to sell this firearm, he was ambushed by another person who began to shoot at him,” Mt. Juliet Police Capt. Tyler Chandler said in a Friday night press conference.
According to authorities, the seller grabbed a gun out of his car and began firing back. Three suspects took off in an SUV, which was captured on license plate readers and found later that night in Nashville.
“I was honestly shocked,” patron Jeff Tedford told News 2 on Saturday, Nov. 11. “I mean, this is a very nice area. We don’t live here, but we come here all the time.”
Jeff and his wife, Annette Tedford, visited the Red Robin at Providence Marketplace for a Veterans Day meal and were surprised to learn the restaurant had been hit by gunfire the night before.
“This typically is a pretty safe area for us to come down and do shopping…and to come from Red Robin, to come over here to eat, you know, we just ate there, it was pretty shocking,” Annette said.
Mt. Juliet officials sent a statement to News 2 on Saturday, saying that although private gun sales are legal in Tennessee, people need to be careful with all online marketplace transactions that involve meeting someone in person.
Criminals are exploiting online marketplaces to meet people and rob them, either trying to steal what the victim is selling or their cash of what they brought to do the purchase.
While we don’t see it often in Mt. Juliet, we hear about this frequently– victims robbed of guns, to their Xboxes to cash.
Meeting a stranger for a transaction is not a good idea, ever.Capt. Tyler Chandler, Mt. Juliet Police Department
The Tedfords were grateful to learn nobody was injured during the parking lot shootout, but they still encouraged others to use designated safe spaces at law enforcement agencies to complete similar transactions.
“If you’re going to buy a firearm from somebody else, I mean, I wouldn’t do it in a dark parking lot late at night, you know, there are safe places in cities,” Jeff told News 2. “In Goodlettsville, we have a safe zone. I mean, doing it like that is very shady and probably not ever going to turn out well.”
As police continue to search for three suspects involved in the attempted robbery and shootout, they urge anyone with information on the suspects’ whereabouts to contact local authorities immediately.