Drive-by leads to 30 grams of smack, guns

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Police at the scene of a drive-by shooting March 24 in South Knoxville. Photo by Knoxville Police Department.

A drive-by shooting in South Knoxville turned into a hair-raising police chase and finally ended as a major drug bust that yielded five arrests.

Police seized thousands of dollars worth of heroin, an undisclosed amount of cash, and three handguns after their violent encounter with five suspects crammed into a Chrysler PT Cruiser on Wednesday afternoon, said Knoxville Police Department spokesman Scott Erland.

The chaotic series of events began about 6:15 p.m. when the occupants of the Cruiser were seen shooting into a house in the 4300 block of Joe Lewis Road, Erland said. One round struck a 61-year-old man who was sitting in his kitchen when the bullets started flying.

“I don’t think there was anything to indicate that the victim was or would have been the intended target,” he said. “It seems that the victim was just sitting at his kitchen table when multiple rounds were fired into his home.”

The man was taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center for treatment and was expected to survive.

The PT Cruiser was spotted by KPD officers patrolling on Jourolman Ave. about 20 minutes after the shooting. The officers tried to pull the vehicle over, but the driver took off and led the officers on a chase that ended with the occupants abandoning the Cruiser near the Dollar General at 2625 Western Ave.

All five of the suspects — four men and a 17-year-old boy — tried to get away on foot but they were rounded up in short order by KPD officers. 

All were charged with attempted first-degree murder; possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed; evading arrest and traffic offenses, said Erland.

Three handguns were recovered, he continued, including one that had been reported stolen in Ohio.

Approximately 30 grams of heroin was seized, he said, along with “an amount of U.S. currency recovered that was consistent with the sale and delivery of narcotics.”

The adult suspects, all of whom reportedly had Knoxville addresses, were identified by police as follows:

— Deontae Green, 26

— Isaiah Harris, 21 

— Kevin Wilson, 20

— David Niyonkuru, 18

The juvenile suspect wasn’t publicly identified.

The drive-by shooting was only the most recent episode of gun-related violence in Knoxville. Since Jan. 1 of this year, there have been 15 slayings, all of them involving firearms. In comparison, by this time in 2020 there had been six homicides.

There were 37 homicides in the city in 2020, more than the previous high of 35 in 1998.

J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at jjstambaugh@hardknoxwire.com

Published March 26, 2021