MARYVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An eastern Tennessee man arrested after a shootout with police that left one officer dead was charged Friday with criminal homicide, which could make him eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted.
Blount County Sherriff James Berrong said that Brian Keith Stalans, 44, has also been charged with four counts of aggravated assault related to the Thursday shootings, including for allegedly firing a gun into a home occupied by a child younger than 5 years old.
Jail records did not indicate whether Stalans has an attorney.
Berrong said Stalans had been locked out of the house when his father was warned by a girlfriend that he was returning to the home with a firearm. The father called police, and the younger Stalans opened fire from the garage on officers who responded to the scene.
Maryville Police Officer Kenny Moats was fatally shot in the neck just above his bullet-proof vest while taking cover behind his vehicle after helping the father get to safety.
The shooting happened during the second domestic disturbance call at the home Thursday.
Sheriff James Berrong said he wished he could "turn back the clock and erase this" given what happened later, but that there was no legal cause for the deputies to arrest Stalans during the first call.
"The father did not want to place charges against his son, and we had no reason without any sign of physical injury to take him into custody," he said.
Because a protective order was filed against Stalans elsewhere in the state, he was required under state law to turn his firearms over to someone else. After the first visit from deputies Thursday, Berrong said Stalans went to his father's attic and retrieved a gun that he been stored there, cut off a lock and then went to buy .45-caliber ammunition.
Investigators entering the house after the shooting found that Stalans had created a barricade in the basement, leading them to believe he was setting up an ambush, Berrong said.
They also found a letter in which Stalans "blamed the Blount County Sherriff's Office and his family for his misfortune and told them 'bye,'" he said.
Moats was a 32-year-old father of three young children, and a nine-year department veteran. After spending much of his time as motorcycle officer, he was assigned to a drug task force in May.
"We know this tragedy will bring our community closer together and that will be a lasting legacy of Officer Moats," said Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp.
Moats is Tennessee's second law enforcement officer killed on duty this month. Special Agent De'Greaun Frazier was shot to death on Aug. 9 during an undercover drug buy for the Tennessee Bureau in Jackson.
"Words alone cannot express the bravery of these professionals or the loss to their families and the communities they served," U.S. Attorney Nancy Harr said.