Police: Sevierville Tanger Outlets shooter was suicidal, had mental health issues

Local News
Leon Steven Jones

Sevierville police say the man accused of shooting two people at Tanger Outlets last month before turning the gun on himself was suffering from mental health issues and became suicidal after an argument with his girlfriend at the mall.

The shooting happened on Tuesday, April 16, at Tanger Five Oaks Mall, 1645 Parkway. The Sevierville Police Department says suspect Leon Steven Jones, 21, did not know either of the victims.

Sevierville police said Wednesday they have completed their investigation and were able to release more information.

The police department says Jones came to the mall with his girlfriend and they planned to go shopping. Detectives say she was unaware he was armed and had no prior knowledge that he was going to shoot anyone.

Detectives believe the two got into an argument and Jones became suicidal. Jones had reportedly had suicidal tendencies in the past but never acted on them.

The car was parked in the Coach/American Eagle parking area. He then left the car and went to the shooting location.

LISTEN: 911 recordings from Sevierville outlet mall shooting

Officers say Jones used a Keltec P32 semi-automatic handgun which deputies have not been able to figure out how he obtained. Jones was a convicted felon and was not legally able to own the gun.

Jones fired three bullets during the incident, police said. One hit John Marr, 75, in the chest. He was taken to a hospital and later released. Another bullet hit Olivia Cunningham, 24, in the head, killing her. Jones then fatally shot himself in the head.

Previous story2 killed, 1 hurt in apparent random shooting at Sevierville outlet mall

When officers arrived, they saw two people on the ground in front of the Coach store, later identified as Cunningham and Jones. Officers observed that both appeared deceased and that one of them was the shooter.

A witness said another victim had gone into the American Eagle store. The officer then went there and began performing first aid on the victim, identified as Marr.

“I am very proud of the men and women of the Sevierville Police Department,” said SPD Chief Joseph Manning. “Our dispatchers, patrol officers, and investigators responded to this event in an efficient and professional manner.”

In addition to Sevierville police releasing their final incident report, which outlines more from their investigation, we’re also hearing more calls to and from dispatch on the day of the shooting. 

The calls kept going out to law enforcement, as the intensity grew surrounding the idea of a shooter at the mall. Dispatch called out: “Any unit close to Tanger Outlet, I’ve got a 911 call that says there have been gunshots and people are running everywhere. I am trying to get further.”

Another call came shortly after, “Units, I have a gunshot wound in front of the Coach store. I am getting more calls on it.”

When they arrived, they soon realized there wasn’t an active shooter and they’d be able to save one victim’s life. A call from law enforcement back to dispatch said, “Okay, I’ve got one probably DOA. This looks like a murder/suicide.”

Moments later, police said “The shooter is down. We don’t know of any other shooter at this time. Stand by for more information.” 

The tragedy highlights the importance of emergency agencies working together. One officer told dispatch, “We got fire on the scene with us.” Dispatch replied, “10-4, the county is wanting to know if we need any extra help?”

Moments later they notified officers on the ground, “Pigeon Forge does have units in route to you also.” 

The shootings also highlight the importance of our dispatch workers, who take calls from people at the scene and family and friends worried about their loved one. One caller asked dispatch about his wife, who was shopping at the mall.

“She’s okay,” he asked. The dispatch worker replied, “Yep, she’s fine where she is.” 

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