Zachary Russell (Courtesy: Knoxville Police Dept.)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Friends of Zach Russell, who was shot and killed in a south Knoxville Wal-Mart, say the officers who shot him acted too quickly.
"He's got a beautiful wife and a beautiful daughter," said Russell Roop. "Now, she's got to grow up without her daddy."
They say despite his criminal history, he was trying to turn his life around.
"He was a great person. He started off getting in trouble and he started changing," remembered Spencer Lane. "He started acting different, started acting like a better person."
But, authorities with the Knoxville Police Dept. claim Russell had fallen back on his ways and was caught stealing light bulbs from the Wal-Mart on Chapman Hwy.
Russell was on probation for multiple theft convictions which one of his friends argued made it more difficult to find work. If he had been arrested, he might have faced more jail time and that is why Roop said he thinks Rusell pulled a gun, spurring officers to react with deadly force.
"It's a trend, said KPD chief David Rausch. "Unfortunately, more people are pulling firearms on officers, which requires us to respond and do our job the way we're trained."
But another friend said they didn't need to shoot to kill.
"If you're going to shoot him, shoot him in his leg," said Spence Lane. "Put him down, don;t kill him."