By ALLEN RAU
The Town of Jonesborough is still in recovery mode days after a Church Hill man reportedly armed with a machete was shot and killed by a Jonesborough police officer in broad daylight in the midst of snarled traffic.
“It’s a tragedy that it didn’t turn out good,” Jonesborough Police Chief Ron Street said. “But sometimes we don’t get to choose that.”
According to the Jonesborough Police Incident Report, the chaos began with an alleged drug complaint at the Comfort Inn & Suites hotel on 11-E. JPD officers responded and encountered 26-yr old Mark Clinton Harrell, of Church Hill, in the parking lot.
When officers attempted to talk with him, the report stated, Harrell “suddenly pulled a machete from his person and stated, ‘No I ain’t going back to prison.’” The officers brandished service weapons and issued verbal commands to drop the weapon when Harrell raised the machete.
According to the report, the suspect ignored their instructions and threatened to cut his throat as he placed the blade against his throat.
Harrell then walked toward 11-E as officers continued to order him to drop the weapon, police said. Three more JPD officers arrived to provide assistance and tried to defuse Harrell with less-lethal bean bag rounds.
The report stated that at that point “Harrell began to cut his throat with the machete saying he would make one of the officers shoot him.”
Harrell allegedly ran into traffic in the westbound lanes of 11-E where he fell to the ground.
According to Street, “It was an unusual situation. We’ve got a lot of video footage of it. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation does, (and) several people put it on Facebook. It was right in the middle of a traffic jam. (There were) a lot of witnesses to it, which normally doesn’t happen.”
When Harrell returned to his feet, “(he) raised the machete in a threatening manner and ran towards one of the officers,” the report stated. “The officer fearing for his life fired three rounds from his duty weapon striking Mark Harrell.” The wounded suspect fell and officers took the machete and began to give him first aid.
Harrell was transported to Johnson City Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
Because the incident was an officer-involved shooting, Chief Street said he requested TBI assistance.
“I requested them to come in. We called the attorney general, the attorney general has to authorize them to come in … and that’s just standard procedure.
“Any time you have an incident like that we try to get an independent party in to do the investigation so that it doesn’t look like we’re trying to cover up anything. That’s why we turn it over to the TBI anytime there’s an officer-involved shooting.”
Street said he wasn’t certain when the TBI’s investigation would be complete and added that none of the officers involved were injured.
Because of the unusual circumstances of the incident, Friday’s occurence may have been a first for Tennessee’s oldest town.
“I don’t know if it’s happened in Jonesborough before or not,” he said. “I don’t recall one.”