News of Chattanooga Police Sgt. James Timothy Chapin’s shooting death Saturday rolled in staggering waves through phone calls and online messages to his friends and fellow officers.
“I just don’t know what to say. I just got home from being out there,” said Chattanooga Police Capt. Ken Neblette. “I’m almost in too much of a shock to know what to say. ... I don’t even know where to begin.”
Neblette went through the police academy with Chapin, a 27-year department veteran.
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger officially released the name of the 51-year-old city officer who was killed in the gunbattle at U.S. Money Shops at 5952 Brainerd Road.
In an emailed statement, Coppinger said the slaying “is a grim reminder of the dangers first responders face every day they put on their uniforms and pin on their badges to protect and serve the public.”
Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield told local media that Chapin’s death is a “terrible loss.”
“This is the sort of day we hope will never come, but it does,” Littlefield said. “We appreciate his sacrifice. Our prayers are with his family and extended family at the department.”
Police did not release the wounded shooting suspect’s name or those of the six officers placed on administrative leave.
Chapin and Officer Lorin Johnston responded with other officers to the pawnshop on an armed robbery call.
Johnston was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital and released, officials said.
In 2007, Johnston donated a kidney to fellow Chattanooga Police Office Daniel Jackson, according to Chattanooga Times Free Press archives. Johnston was awarded the department’s Medal of Valor the same year.
Fraternal Order of Police local chapter President Sgt. Toby Hewitt played Friday in the Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers 10th annual Sgt. John Baker Classic Memorial Golf Tournament with Chapin and used to work in the same patrol zone as the fallen sergeant.
The tournament honors Baker, a Chattanooga officer who died of pancreatic cancer.
“He’s just a good family man — a fine, fine officer,” Hewitt said of Chapin. “It’s just a horrible loss.”
Hewitt said Chapin was an FOP member and that officers will reach out to the family and try to help with anything they need.
“There’s a part of you that can’t believe it happened, and then there’s a part of you that realizes it happened and we have a job to do,” Hewitt said. “Clean up the mess and prosecute the horrible individual that did this.”
A woman who answered the phone at Chapin’s Soddy-Daisy home declined to comment Saturday. Police said Chapin is married and has two children.
Chapin was a day patrol supervisor in the Delta zone, which covers Brainerd.
City Councilwoman Carole Berz represents District 6, which includes Brainerd. She said Brainerd residents meet regularly with police and work closely with them to keep the area safe.
“The neighbors and police here are friends,” she said. “So for something like this to happen is an outrage, and he will be missed.”
Former District 6 Councilwoman Marti Rutherford learned of Chapin’s death when called by a Times Free Press reporter Saturday afternoon.
“He was a fine man and a serious, dedicated police officer,” she said. “I really hope that in the next few days, people all over our city will recognize what these officers really mean to our safety. I think too often we forget that until a tragedy happens.”
Steve Scoggins, with U.S. Money Shops, emailed a message to media outlets Saturday night.
“We appreciate the bravery of the heroes at the Chattanooga Police Department and other agencies who protected our employees, customers and other innocent bystanders today. We join the community in this time of mourning as we are deeply saddened by the tragic events that occurred today.”
Fellow Officer Curtis Penney said his phone buzzed with a simple message Saturday morning as he rested following a late-night shift Friday — “Officer down 5900 Brainerd Road.”
A few phone calls and minutes later, Penney learned that the officer was Chapin.
Penney reflected on working with a sergeant who would back him up on calls even though they worked in separate zones.
“Whenever he showed up to a scene ... something about his presence, you just knew everything was going to be OK,” Penney said.
Shortly after Chapin’s death, Penney had posted a photo of his friend on his Facebook page. More than 30 of Chapin’s friends had changed their profile pictures to a photograph of a Chattanooga police badge with a black band with a blue stripe around the middle, a reference to the “blue line” that officers say separates police from other professions as a tightly knit community.
The sergeant inspired Penney, an 11-year police veteran.
“He wasn’t a desk supervisor; he got out there with his men,” Penney said. “He led at the front of the pack and ultimately he died at the front of the pack. You can’t ask much more from a supervisor than that.”
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...