Police identify suspected shoplifter killed at Wal-Mart, officers involved

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The suspected shoplifter and two officers connected to a fatal officer-involved shooting at a south Knoxville Wal-Mart were identified late Wednesday morning.

Zachary Blaine Russell, 21, was shot and killed when he allegedly pulled a gun on officers confronting him and another person about a suspected shoplifting, according to Knoxville Police spokesperson, Darrell DeBusk. He also identified the responding officers as Ofc. John Mays, 44, and Ofc. Tolliver Robertson, 41.

"If someone points a gun at our officer, that's the way we are going to respond, " said KPD Chief David Rausch.

The investigation into the shooting is still ongoing and the officers have been placed on Administrative leave with pay, which is standard operating procedure.

"When someone loses his life it's a sad thing," added Rausch. "But the impact is just as detrimental to our officer. The last thing they want to do is take a life."

Police will conduct additional interviews on Wednesday and plan to go over evidence recovered from the scene, which includes surveillance video of the incident. The second suspect, who was with Russell, was questioned and released, though could still face charges.

Ofcs. Mays and Tolliver were called to the Wal-Mart, 7420 Chapman Hwy., after Russell and the other suspect were stopped by the store's loss prevention personnel. They were accused of hiding several small appliance-type light bulbs in their clothes while purchasing anti-freeze.

According to DeBusk, that's when Russell became agitated. When officers tried to secure Russell, he reportedly pulled out a small-caliber gun and pointed it at them. That's when Mays fired and fatally wounded Russell. No one else was hurt.

Richard Graham was shopping for clothes when gunfire rang out. "All we heard was bang bang bang and they were like clear the store," Grahem recounted. "Everybody was screaming they were saying he's gonna shoot all of us go go go!! And there was people getting knocked down."

Investigators were told that Russell had taken some non-prescribed pain-medications earlier in the evening. An autopsy is expected Wednesday.

Police added he had a criminal history which included multiple thefts, reckless endangerment, aggravated burglary, simple possession and possession of drug paraphernalia and was currently on probation for multiple theft convictions.

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  • by Andy Location: Myrtle Beach SC on Jan 1, 2012 at 09:18 PM
    I have a friend who as at the store aprox 50ft away at another register at the time of the incident. He said that the guy reached to pull out the light bulbs, not a gun so therefore the cops tazed and then shot when he reached for the bulbs, no gun was involved..on the news they said the cops were sent away WITHOUT pay..on here it's saying otherwise..so somebody isn't getting their story straight. Not to mention u can't approach someone shoplifting and arrest them til AFTER they walk out the store not while IN the store. So I see a lawsuit in the making from the family.
  • by kayla Location: knoxville on Dec 6, 2011 at 01:54 PM
    i knew zac personally and he was a great guy he was a great husband,father,and friend to every one those of you who did not know him have no right to judge him rip zac we love and miss you
  • by Valerie Fox Location: Knoxville on Nov 20, 2011 at 12:41 AM
    Stealing is wrong. Granted. But, Zacs actions were not to hurt anyone. I didnt know him, personally, but my husband grew up with him. And i truly believe deep inside, tht he had no intentions of any harm being done. Im sorry his wife lost her husband, his daughter lost a father n his family lost a son, brother, grandson,cousin. All over judgement. We love you, Zac.
  • by Robert Fox on Nov 19, 2011 at 11:53 PM
    I was one of Zacs dearest friends. So before u judge, judge me. Dont judge someone who cant defend themselves. His family lost a great part of their lives. His family , his loving wife, and beautiful daughter are in our thoughts n prayers. We love you, Zac.
  • by Gary Monaghan on Nov 19, 2011 at 12:30 PM
    Gage, I understand you are friends of the family and are sad to have lost a friend, but I have to completely disagree with you. If a police office is talking to you and you pull a gun on them you should fully expect to be shot and very probably killed. No excuses! Your account of what happened is coming from the family and friends of the victim who have an agenda to make the cop look bad. The bottom line is don't pull out a gun and point it at a cop (or anyone else for that matter).
  • by Gage Sharp on Nov 19, 2011 at 01:16 AM
    I'm good friends with the family, and the other 'suspect' it was 15$ worth of stuff. Yes, wrong. But no reason to be repeatedly tazed, Zac was crying begging to not be tazed anymore, the officer kept tazing him. And since when does the first shot to the face not justify a kill? He was then shot three more times. AFTER HE WAS DEAD! Now you scum bag can rot. Talking about someone gone like this?! You're insane! You heartless people have no idea what went on in that office, you'll just keep your 'nose high' opinions because you have no clue what happened. He was being restrained and tazed, begging not to be tazed, and he was repeatedly. He was scared and SHOT THE FLOOR! Then was shot in the face, then three times in the chest. I think it was overkill.
  • by Hope on Nov 18, 2011 at 09:08 AM
    you tellin em girl i count agree miore
  • by Doug Location: Knoxville on Nov 17, 2011 at 07:58 PM
    Man high on drugs pulls a gun on police. Man with gun gets shot and killed. No innocent people get hurt. My tax money does not get wasted housing this dangerous criminal. All and all a great ending!
    • reply
      by Tim on Nov 18, 2011 at 10:28 AM in reply to Doug
      Not a great ending. Now the police officer has to deal with taking a life. Everyone says " the cop did it" Zachary did it by putting himself in the situation in the first place. People get into trouble and blame society or the situation. There are alot of people without money that don't steal. He was a CRIMINAL.
  • by Chelsey Location: Knoxville on Nov 17, 2011 at 12:19 PM
    This is to stumpy. My husband Corey is dealing with this lost to. He had a gun cause he wanted to have it. Its none of y'alls business. He was not gonna use that to kill anybody. He always f***in has. So u and everyone on here can burn burn burn!
  • by Scott Location: Downtown Knoxville on Nov 17, 2011 at 12:09 PM
    For all those responding with "We don't know him" and "we shouldn't judge him"... You're wrong, we do know Zach, he was a thief with pryors. He didn't learn from his previous mistakes and it cost him and his family with the ultimate price. He chose the path he went down and his wife and kid will better off without this kind of example in their lives. I bet his daughter don't grow up to steal and pull guns on anyone, she'll know the consequences and so should most of you if your parents done a good job!


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