Another 911 call came in -- this time, from a Tennessee church in which a talk on gun safety had just occurred.
Local schools and hospitals were told to go on lockdown by authorities until they knew what had happened at the First United Methodist Church. It would take 45 minutes for the information to reach local police that the gunshot was an accidental discharge of a firearm.
An 81-year-old man had accidentally shot his wife, who was sitting next to him during a firearms demonstration. Although it wasn't what the local police initially thought the shooting was, the incident at the small church in Tellico Plains, Tennessee, put the community on high alert.
According to Tellico Plains Police Chief Russ Parks, the elderly man had shown his gun during the initial demonstration for the group and pulled it out again for a late arrival who wanted to see what he had missed.
“They had their backs to it,” Parks said. “Somebody hollers, ‘He’s been shot! She’s been shot! Call 911!’ So someone grabs their cellphone and calls 911, and says we’ve had somebody shot at church.”
After that, misinformation was rampant, reports The Washington Post. The dispatcher assumed it was similar to what took place in Sutherland, Texas, in which 26 people had died in a mass shooting at a church. The shooting was stopped by Stephen Willeford with his personal gun, using training he had received from the National Rifle Association, reports The Washington Post.
The Tennessee church incident occurred on Nov. 16 when a group of elderly patrons was attending a gun safety seminar.
“Well, I’ve got my gun on me,” an 81-year-old member of the church said, according to Parks.
The man had pulled out his .38 caliber Ruger handgun, removed the magazine and cleared the chamber for others to see. They had discussed how to safely bring a gun into church, according to Parks, and how sad it was that so many lives had been lost nationwide to mass shootings.
"Somebody else walked up and said, 'Can I see it?'" Parks said, reports USA Today. "He pulled it back out and said, 'With this loaded indicator, I can tell that it’s not loaded.'"
During the demonstration, however, the man had pulled the magazine out before placing it in the holster. Somehow, during the demonstration, a round found its way to the chamber. When he pulled the gun out for the second time, his finger accidentally pulled the trigger and set the gun off in the direction of his 80-year-old wife who was sitting in a wheelchair next to him.
The bullet ripped through her lower left abdomen, out the right side of her abdomen, into her right forearm and out the back side of her forearm. Parks said the bullet then struck the wall and ricocheted, landing under the wife’s wheelchair, reports The Washington Post.
The couple was transported to an area medical center with the wife in critical but stable condition, Tellico Plains police said, reports USA Today. Family said they would like to remain anonymous, according to The Washington Post. No charges have been filed.