KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Office of Eighth Judicial District Attorney General Jared Effler has ruled that officers were justified in their use of force when officers fatally shot an armed robbery suspect on I-75 in Campbell County on Oct. 21.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was requested to oversee the investigation into the officer-involved shooting in the northbound lanes of I-75N.
According to the investigation findings, officers responded to the Walmart on Appalachian Highway in Jacksboro around 7:30 p.m. after a suspect, later identified s 34-year-old Michael Raymond Hilton of North Carolina, brandished a handgun and demanded ‘oxys and money.’ A pharmacist gave Hilton a decoy bottle of pills and he was seen leaving the Walmart driving a silver Subaru.
Documents show Hilton nearly collided with a Campbell County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant while he fled from the parking lot, turning onto Appalachian Highway before reaching northbound I-75. The vehicle reached speeds in excess of 120 mph during the pursuit.
Campbell County Sheriff’s Office Detective John Minor observed that Hilton had a firearm in his hand while passing a construction zone on I-75 near two other CCSO officers.
Tennessee Highway Patrol Sergeant Rex Bailey was informed the armed suspect was traveling in his direction on I-75 N where he was assisting a broken-down tractor-trailer truck. The silver Subaru was observed passing stopped traffic on the shoulder, accelerating between two vehicles.
Bailey began walking towards the stopped traffic when he observed a vehicle accelerating between two vehicles headed towards him. The vehicle rammed at least one vehicle in the stopped traffic in the northbound lane of I-75.
Hearing the crash, Bailey and Minor drew their service weapons. Bailey gave verbal commands to the vehicle but it began to accelerate once through the stopped traffic. Bailey walked toward the guardrail I-75 while continuing to give verbal commands then fired his weapon in to the windshield of the car due to fear of it striking him or one of the officers at the scene.
Minor, who was standing on the dotted line divider of the northbound lanes, began firing at that time as he believed from his vantage point that the vehicle was headed toward Bailey. Sergeant Weaver also fired multiple rounds.
Bailey continued to fire his service weapon as the Subaru passed by him before crashing into his patrol car. He fired three additional rounds after the crash because he heard the car rev and believed the driver may be attempting to put the car in reverse. Weaver also continued shooting.
Bailey approached the car and then noticed the female passenger, later identified as Emily Hilton. He reported he was unaware that there was a passenger in the car at the time of the incident.
Bailey noticed the driver’s agonal breathing and what appeared to be impending death, according to reports. Emergency Services were requested at that time.
EMS arrived sometime later and determined that the driver would not survive; thus, medical intervention would be ineffective, according to reports.
A handgun was found in the rear right pocket of the driver and 1.6 grams of methamphetamine were recovered from the vehicle. Reports state the Subaru was littered with syringes.
Investigators determined that Michael and Emily Hilton, who had been living in North Carolina prior to October 21, left North Carolina to go to a rehabilitation facility. It is unclear the exact time frame of when Michael and Emily Hilton left North Carolina as well as when they arrived in Campbell County, Tennessee.
Emily Hilton told the TBI that Michael Hilton were outside the Walmart when he walked inside and came back out informing her she was going to call the pharmacy, give them his description and that he would start shooting if he did not get what he wanted.
She admitted the gun possessed by Michael Hilton was hers and she knew he had it when he entered the Walmart. A total of 17 rounds of unfired ammunition were found on Hilton during the autopsy.
The Knoxville Regional Forensic Center performed the autopsy on Michael Hilton. The final autopsy report had not been completed prior to the release of the DA’s report.
Hilton died as a result of one or two gunshot wounds. Three officers shot at him, and only one officer, Bailey, inflicted the two fatal gunshot wounds, officials said.
Based on the high rate of speed of the vehicle, close proximity to law enforcement and other bystanders and repeated verbal commands, the District Attorney’s Office determined there was no reasonable dispute that Hilton posed an imminent threat to Bailey and all three officers were legally justified in their use of lethal force.
The use of force did not rise to the grounds for a criminal charge against the three officers, closing the investigation and investigative file. No officers were harmed during the incident.