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Out-of-state shooting is real tragedy for many victimsPosted Monday, March 5, 2012, at 11:10 AM
Since Greene County was thrust into national news headlines last week, many in our community -- like myself -- have been trying to make some sense of what happened to make a young couple put their lives on the line in the name of crime.
The deaths of 25-year-old Shanna L. Richardson and 32-year-old Michael J. Baker at the hands of gunfire from a pair of Anderson County Sheriff's Department deputies in Tennessee looks to have been preventable.
The investigation into what happened is continuing by the Tennessee Department of Investigation.
The case begs answers for the law authorities and the family of the victims.
Why was the Greene County couple traveling in the east Tennessee area in a stolen truck?
Why did they choose to steal fuel from a service station where law-abiding citizens normally pay for what they pump?
Why did they as convicted felons decide to open gunfire with a pursuing police officer, then refuse to stop?
There are consequences for actions -- especially criminal actions that have lasting effects on family members of the victims as well as the law officers.
They are the innocent victims in this crime. They are the individuals that deserve our prayers and concerns as we ask the questions why did all of this happen.
Baker apparently was driving a truck stolen from a Greene County veterinarian and drove off after pumping $146 work of diesel fuel at a Lake City, Tenn., service station not far from Interstate 75 -- a popular north-to-south route for folks from our area to travel for vacations in sunny Florida during Spring Break or in the summer months.
This couple had other not-so-restful intentions when they confronted law officers last Wednesday afternoon -- opening gunfire from a shotgun as the lawmen pursued them on what looked like a case of a stolen truck then stealing some gasoline -- both serious crimes.
The Greene County couple eventually had a flat tire and wrecked the truck. They then got into a gunfight with police.
Richardson, the mother of three children back home in Indiana, was pronounced dead at the scene. Baker, who was driving the truck, died several hours later at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville.
The duo, dubbed by some as a modern day Bonnie and Clyde of sorts, was driving an extended cab truck, owned by the Linton Vet Clinic on State Road 54 that was stolen a day earlier.
The theft of the diesel fuel took place in the late morning hours Wednesday
An Anderson County Sheriff's deputy spotted the vehicle about 1 p.m. about 20 miles from the theft location and initiated a pursuit when the truck's driver refused to stop.
The truck continued at a high rate of speed and a second sheriff's deputy joined the chase.
The pursuit ended when the suspects ran off the road and went into the parking lot of the Claxton Fire Station.
There was an exchange of gunfire between the suspects and the initial deputy who pursued the truck, as well as a second deputy who had arrived to assist.
The officers weren't injured.
The officers' shots hit both suspects.
The suspects' weapon, a shotgun that was owned by veterinarian Roy Whitman, was found in the truck.
The officers were placed on paid leave, which is standard procedure following a shooting incident.
The investigation will take several months to complete at which time it will be turned over to the District Attorney General for review, according to Kristin Helm, a public information officer for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Whitman has been criticized by some because he left his keys in an unlocked truck that was loaded with Ruger .22 caliber pistol in the console, shotgun lying in the back seat and a storage unit that contained drugs and syringes used for animals was in the bed of the truck.
While unwise, there is nothing illegal about his actions.
This whole case is so sad and unnecessary.
From what we've learned, both individuals had a criminal history involved in theft, burglary and stolen property.
It's not a new crime scenario for our area. The county jail houses these kinds of criminals every day in numbers that are staggering.
The deaths of Shanna L. Richardson and Michael J. Baker are a sad example of what happens when people think they are invincible. Their deaths on the side of that Tennessee roadway were preventable.
In this case, this young couple doesn't get another chance to turn lives around.
Let's let their passing serve as a life lesson for both young and old.
Nick is the assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be contacted by telephone at 847-4487 or by email at email@example.com .
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