Witness claims Johnson City man was holding beer can, not gun, when shot by THP


On January 12th, there was an officer-involved shooting in Kingsport on I-26, near the Rock Springs Road exit.

Tennessee Highway Patrol said a white car was speeding and troopers pulled it over. Then things escalated quickly.

Here's where the two sides of the story differ. Investigators said 39-year-old Richard Jenny, the man in the passengers seat, pulled a weapon on troopers. And that's why they shot him.

But Melissa Ferguson, who was in the back seat of the car, said that's not what happened. Ferguson called the shooting 'excessive' and 'unnecessary' because she believes Jenny was not a threat to police.

"He went to set the beer can on the dash and then all I heard was gunshots," Ferguson said.

TBI officials said THP troopers fired because Jenny pulled out a weapon when they pulled over a car on I-26. Ferguson was one of three people in the car with Jenny, and that's not how she remembers it.

"It was scary, but I ducked and one grazed my shoulder," Ferguson said. "There was a hole in my jacket."

Jenny was in the front seat, Ferguson was in the back. Ferguson admitted there was a gun in the car. But she said it was stuffed between the two front seats, and Jenny never reached for it.

"He never touched a gun, he never pulled a gun, he got up with his hands up," Ferguson said.

Ferguson claims the only thing in Jenny's hand: a beer can. She remembers a trooper asking Jenny for his I.D., then telling him to get out of the car. The next thing she knew, troopers began firing.

"There was no reason for them to shoot at him," Ferguson said.

Although we could not verify the number of shots fired, Ferguson said Jenny was hit at least half a dozen times.

"He was shot once in each hand," she said. "He was shot in the stomach, in the back of his leg, and he was shot in the back of his head."

Both were taken to the hospital.

"They lifted him up, there was blood coming out of his mouth and they handcuffed him," she said.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was at the scene that night, collecting evidence.

News 5 asked TBI about Ferguson's story, and they are standing behind the original report.

"At some point, one of the occupants in the vehicle pulled a weapon, at which point troopers fired," TBI spokesperson Leslie Earhart said the night of the shooting. "Once the investigation is complete, our findings will be turned over to the DA's office."

Right now, TBI is declining to comment any further.

Richard Jenny is still in the hospital. So far, no charges have been filed.

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