published Sunday, April 3rd, 2011, updated April 3rd, 2011 at 12:28 p.m.

Chattanooga mourns slain officer

Police Chief Bobby Dodd, center, speaks to the media Saturday afternoon while Mayor Ron Littlefield, background, looks on. Police responding to a robbery Saturday were fired at. One officer was killed and another injured along with the robbery suspect. 
Staff photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Police Chief Bobby Dodd, center, speaks to the media Saturday afternoon while Mayor Ron Littlefield, background, looks on. Police responding to a robbery Saturday were fired at. One officer was killed and another injured along with the robbery suspect. Staff photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Four women huddled together at the edge of yellow crime-scene tape.

They looked for their officer.

To them, he is a brother. A son. A grandson.

And on Saturday, he was one of the lucky ones.

“Obviously it wasn’t his day to die today,” said Pat Blumenberg, Chattanooga Police Officer Brian Blumenberg’s mother, choking back tears outside the U.S. Money Shop on Brainerd Road.

The Blumenbergs said that had it not been for Sgt. Timothy Chapin, a 27-year department veteran nearing retirement, they would be mourning their officer.

Instead, Chapin’s family was emotionally shattered early Saturday by a gunman’s bullet during a robbery interrupted.

“I feel for that family,” Pat Blumenberg said.

Chapin, 51, was shot and killed as he responded to a robbery at the pawn shop near Big Lots. A second officer, Lorin Johnston, 45, was wounded during the gunfight. He was treated at a local hospital and released.

Chattanooga police said this morning the suspected gunman is Jesse Mathews, a parolee and fugitive from Colorado who is wanted on robbery warrants there. Matthews was shot by pursuing officers.

Police spokeswoman Jerri Weary said in a release that Mathews remains in the hospital and no information was available on his condition.

As investigators gathered evidence after the shooting, Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd said Chapin’s fellow officers were shocked.

“It’s probably the most tragic thing you could go through. It’s losing a family member. He’s a super nice guy. Has a family of his own,” Dodd said. He did not officially identify Chapin on Saturday, but County Mayor Jim Coppinger used the officer’s name in a condolence message.

“I think a lot of the folks out here are just numb at this point,” Dodd said.

Chapin was the first Chattanooga officer to be shot and killed in the line of duty since Officer Julie Jacks in May 2002.

Chapin was among three or four officers who initially responded to a robbery in progress at about 10:20 a.m. at U.S. Money Shops, 5952 Brainerd Road.

The gunman opened fire on the officers as they rushed the pawn shop, Dodd said.

They retreated to their cars out front and called for backup while the gunman fled out the store’s right side door, Dodd said.

Officers chased the gunman on foot and by car about 200 yards as shots rang out, he said.

Afterward, they scoured the crime scene and embraced.

Other agencies, including the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, came to assist as prosecutors watched.

TBI will investigate the shooting because police officers were involved. In the meantime, those six officers will be on administrative leave as part of department policy, Dodd said.

Before the shooting

In the minutes before the police response, Blumenberg and his supervisor, Chapin, were taking a break at Starbucks, just down Brainerd Road from the pawnshop.

A patron looked over at Blumenberg and stared at the paper’s obituary section. He said Blumenberg looked like one of the dead, the officer’s sister recounted.

“Brian was kind of floored by that,” Beverly Blumenberg said at the scene after speaking with her brother.

As the Chattanooga officers left the coffee shop, Blumenberg peered up at the sky.

Two airplanes crossed paths, their contrails leaving the image of a cross.

He snapped a picture and texted Beverly Blumenberg the image with a Bible passage, Proverbs 3:16. It was 10:13 a.m.

“Commit your ways to the Lord and he will make a path for you,” Beverly Blumenberg said. “Just trust God and he will look out for you. ... I think that’s what protected him.”

When the call came out for a robbery in progress, it should have been Blumenberg who rushed off to the pawnshop.

But while they were at Starbucks, Chapin had ordered him to follow up on an accident report from a week ago and said he would take the call, Beverly Blumenberg said.

Then came the “shots fired” call, and her brother raced to the pawnshop where Chapin had been mortally wounded.

“He’s very upset — seeing his sergeant in a pool of blood. It just was hard,” said Pat Blumenberg.

“He [Brian] felt like the sergeant took his place and what would have been his life,” Beverly Blumenberg added.

When they heard about the shooting, the women came to the scene to show support, but more importantly to see Blumenberg.

“I had to be here. I had to see my son — physically see him,” Pat Blumenberg said.

She said her son had a brush with death a few years ago when his patrol car was totaled in a crash and he required extensive rehabilitation to walk again.

And this isn’t the first time Blumenberg has lost one of his colleagues.

He decided to carry a badge and wear a uniform 10 years ago after another law enforcement officer, Hamilton County Deputy Donald Bond, convinced him to join.

Bond was shot and killed in September 2001 when he stopped to check out a suspicious vehicle at an East Brainerd Road fruit and vegetable stand. His convicted murderer, Marlon Duane Kiser, is on Tennessee’s death row.

“Every day when an officer leaves his home, you don’t know whether it’s his last day. It’s probably the worst job in the world where people don’t respect you,” Pat said.

“You stop to think what their pay is. You stop and ask someone on the street, ‘Would you be willing to give your life for this pay?’ Most of them say no. It has to be a commitment on trying to help people.”

Related article: Chapin a ‘good man, fine officer’

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dih2006 said...

I remember seeing the crossing contrails this morning, but I thought it looked more like a large, askew 'x' - not a cross.

And "He’s a super nice guy." is the best quote the police chief had to offer? Come on, TFP.

April 3, 2011 at 1:09 a.m.

God bless Sergeant Timothy Chapin, his entire family and all of our LE officers in Chattanooga. Southeast Tennessee needs to take stock of where we are headed. Let us all pause in an effort to help our area become a safe haven and care for one another. Life is so fragile for each and every one of us.

April 3, 2011 at 6:43 a.m.
MasterChefLen said...

The suspect should have been left to die of his wounds, instead of being treated with the tax payer money. The scum murdered a cop, he should die a cruel death!

April 3, 2011 at 9:49 a.m.
ut96 said...

I can't believe that poor excuse of a mayor, Ron Littlefield, has the audacity to be seen with the police chief after everything he has done to curtail the Chattanooga police department. It's no coincidence that crime in Chattanooga has increased while Littlefield has been mayor. C.P.D. is stretched so thin right now that crime will continue to increase until more cops are put on the street.

April 3, 2011 at 11:28 a.m.
jimzdog said...

I want one damned lawyer to be accountable for the neglegence standard these pieces of crap want to hold everyone else to. Mathews was a scum, but plenty of brave officers before Tim brought him in. Greedy dirtbag lawyers and judges that are NEVER held accountable to any standard beyond the next billable hour are responsible. God rest this very good man's soul.

April 3, 2011 at 6:30 p.m.
Echo said...

While the TBI is investigating this shooting and asking questions about what happened, perhaps the voters of Chattanooga should be asking ourselves what we could have done to prevent this. Did we vote for politicians who support our police with money for manpower, training, practice ammo, cars, ballistic vests, and police dogs? Do our elected officials and their appointees limit tactics that our police need to confront and increasingly violent threat? Our city council responds by putting up dumb little "gun-buster" signs in parks and driving the "thugs in training" over to a centralized play-date at the tax payer's expense. Chattanooga needs to be cleaned up, not just criminals on the street but also the thugs that currently hold office. Mayor LandMoneyGrab and many of the financial lightweights on the city council need to be replaced with people who have honest priorities and the courage to make meaningful changes in Chattanooga's public safety or all of the great aspects of this city will be lost in a sea of violence.

April 3, 2011 at 8:26 p.m.
tcrashfx said...

Did Beth Burger, or Todd South, of the TFP, telephone the home of the murdered officer, Sgt. Tim Chapin, asking for a 'comment'? How low is the Newsfree Press willing to go for a 'story'? If the aforementioned is true, please call every advertiser featured on this website and voice your displeasure and refuse to trade with them until Ms. Burgur or Mr. South is fired.

April 3, 2011 at 10:55 p.m.
Haiku said...

@tcrashfx, hopefully you're running on emotions and not yourself at the moment. We're all mourning the loss of your fellow brother in blue. Yes, we know your a member of the profession. However, don't diminish the memory of your fellow officer with your anger. If Todd South or Beth Burger had called the home of this officer for comment, you'd be the first to accuse them of being insensitive and disrespectful.

Grieving doesn't have to include anger and threats. Anger and threats serve no purpose in moments such as this, other than to taint and blemish the individual you're actually attempting to honor.

April 4, 2011 at 11:54 a.m.
chet123 said...

echo...get a grip on dont need more money, or army tanks, look at your justice system....the chicken coming home to roost.....that scum-bag had 2 previous arm robbery....your white justice system let that thug out.....never would have happen if he had been a black man.....NO! look inwards man....the tax payer dont need to pay higher taxes......chattanooga citizen are tax enough... so dont give me this bernie fife BS.......the sky is not falling....look in the mirror.....the system blew it(your system)

April 6, 2011 at 7:47 a.m.
chet123 said...

and by the way...i'm a black man....and i recognize sgt.chapin was an honorable of the good guys......the black people who encounter him love him.....he was a christian by phonyness about him....belong to a stronge GODly church ABBA of the best church in the nation.....and i hate the fact the good guys are sometimes dealt the wrong hand in life...he was a very very good man......not like you hypocrites!!!!he will be missed

April 6, 2011 at 7:55 a.m.
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