KCSO: Deputy shot, recovering at UT Medical Center

STRAWBERRY PLAINS, Tenn. (WATE) - A Knox County man faces charges for attempted first-degree murder after police say he shot a sheriff's deputy.

Deputies were called to the house when James Allen Hickman's wife alerted 911 dispatchers that husband threatened to kill himself, according to police. Officials say while she was on the phone with dispatchers, Hickman, 58, fired a shot from a handgun. His wife left the house, telling 911 operators she didn't feel safe. 

When deputies arrived at the home on Noe Hill Lane, Hickman exchanged fire with deputies striking Deputy Travis Wheat, 34, in the arm.

We spoke with retired Knoxville Police Chief, Phil Keith, about the dangers officers face when responding to suicide calls.

"I think it's one of the most dreadful kinds of calls because the individual that's involved, the subject who's considering suicide, you never know where they're going to come from. It's often said the most dangerous person in the world is someone who thinks they have nothing to lose," said Keith.

Wheat was rushed to UT Medical Center, where his condition is stable.

Hickman was struck in the shoulder and is also at UT Medical Center, where his condition is also stable.

Keith says when officers respond to suicide calls there are a thousand things running through their minds and they work to de-escalate the conversation, "They're going to have to make decisions based on what triggers certain reactions, the body movement of the individual, if there's more than one person, if there's imminent threat."

"The officer was shooting to disable the threat and the fact that he hit him and that stopped the threat, the officer exercised extraordinary judgment and bravery on top of that," added Keith.

Hickman is still in the hospital. 

Hickman had charges of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment dismissed in 2006 after completing judicial diversion.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can reach the Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.

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