George Ankar, owner of Ankar's Hoagies, stands outside of his business which is near where Sgt. Tim Chapin was killed during a shoot-out. Ankar heard the shots from his business. Staff Photo by Allison Carter/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Shots began to ring out as George Ankar was opening his restaurant Saturday morning.
After rushing to the back door of Ankar’s Hoagies, he watched Chattanooga police officers — men his staff know by the sandwich they always order — return fire at 25-year-old Jesse Mathews, who was shooting at officers.
“When I heard the second shot, I went to the door,” Ankar said Tuesday. “I saw two police cars and one officer on the side of the building, shooting. I think I heard about 15 to 20 shots.”
Police had responded to a silent alarm triggered by an employee at U.S. Money Shops, a pawnshop across a small roadway from Ankar’s.
“Then I saw a police officer run to the other parking lot,” Ankar said, motioning to a lot next to the pawn shop. “That’s when the suspect went out the side of the building. He came out of the side door and he ran. That’s when I think Officer Tim went to his car.”
Officer Tim is Sgt. Tim Chapin, who was fatally shot while trying to apprehend Mathews. Chapin pursued Mathews by car before the suspect brandished a gun and shot the officer in the head.
The chase ran about 200 yards down the roadway that winds away behind the pawnshop, according to police. Mathews was also shot and remains at Erlanger hospital with no information available on his condition.
Shortly after the shooting, an officer came to him, asking for a cup of water, Ankar said. He asked what was wrong.
“That’s when he said one of the officers got shot and killed,” Ankar said. “He was shaking.”
Criminal records for Mathews show he had a lengthy history of robbery charges in Colorado and, just a few days ago, was in the process of serving a 20-year sentence on a single robbery charge.
After being convicted in 2003, he was sent to a medium security prison, then transferred in October to a halfway house that was run by ComCor, a nonprofit community corrections program located in El Paso County, Colo., said Katherine Sanguinetti, public information officer for the Colorado Department of Corrections.
He had a job at a local call center for Ryla, a customer service firm, she said, and ComCor kept tabs on him through spot checks at the halfway house and unannounced work visits.
But on Feb. 13, after ComCor was unable to locate him, he was declared a fugitive, she said.
Authorities in Colorado Springs also have listed Mathews as a suspect in three recent business robberies, including a pawnshop, according to an affidavit. Police also believe that after the robberies Mathews had as many as 16 guns in his possession, according to documents.
Every six months, inmates in Colorado are evaluated and reclassified, depending upon the amount of time they already have served and their behavior, she said. Mathews had continued to progress during his time in jail, she said.
His prison record showed no “major” incidents, with the last disciplinary write-up in 2007, she said. There were a total of four write-ups in eight years for bartering or selling, threats, fighting and disobeying a lawful order, she said.
Under a state mandate, Mathews went through a referral process and had to gain approval from the Department of Corrections and a local corrections board before he was allowed to be placed at the ComCor facility, Sanguinetti said.
It’s unclear when Mathews came to Chattanooga, but before the shooting, he was staying with a woman in an apartment complex about a mile away from U.S. Money. The woman began living in the complex about two weeks ago, according to Lentz Reynolds, property manager at Rustic Village Apartments, 510 Central Drive.
Mathews was not listed on the lease, Reynolds said.
“Based on his background, he would have never been able to stay here,” he said.
After the shooting, Ankar’s Hoagies was closed to the public throughout Saturday, but the Ankar family provided police with food and beverages as well as a place to question witnesses.
Sitting in his restaurant Tuesday afternoon, Ankar said he knows most of the Chattanooga police officers in the department’s Delta zone, where his restaurant is located. Some officers came in to take breaks Saturday. Some were laughing, sharing memories of Chapin. Others wept.
Photos of Chapin now sit on the counter for customers to view as they wait in line.
Chapin, who routinely ordered a steak hamburger or a ham-and-cheese hoagie, was quiet, said Ankar.
“He came in here every Sunday, religiously,” Ankar said. “He sat in the back sometimes. Most of the time, he gets it to go.”
Ankar said the faces and emotions of the officers after Saturday’s shooting will stay in his mind forever.
“I’ll never be able to get it out of my mind — and knowing Tim just makes it harder,” he said.