published Friday, August 5th, 2011

Chattanooga man shot by deputies appears in court

Hamilton County Assistant District Attorney Rodney Strong,  Lt. James Wilson of the Highway 58 Volunteer Fire Department, assistant district public defender Alan Dunn, and Michael Swinney, from left, talk during Swinney's preliminary hearing Thursday.
Hamilton County Assistant District Attorney Rodney Strong, Lt. James Wilson of the Highway 58 Volunteer Fire Department, assistant district public defender Alan Dunn, and Michael Swinney, from left, talk during Swinney's preliminary hearing Thursday.
Photo by Kate Harrison /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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    Michael Swinney, 62, faces six charges of attempted first degree murder after he fired upon Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and Highway 58 volunteer firefighters Monday night.

The case involving a man accused of opening fire on a group of Hamilton County Sheriff's Office deputies and volunteer firefighters is headed to the grand jury.

Michael Swinney, 62, had his preliminary hearing Thursday in the courtroom of General Sessions Judge David Bale, who bound the case over to the grand jury after hearing testimony from several law enforcement officers.

Swinney appeared to have recovered substantially from the gunshot wounds he received from deputies who returned fire at him, though he lost his left eye.

He faces six counts of attempted first-degree murder, three for the deputies at the scene and three for volunteer firefighters also on scene. He also faces one count of reckless endangerment.

Right2Know at http://www.right2know.com

The deputies fired at Swinney during a standoff July 11 that started when firefighters responded to a vehicle fire on Barn Road. Three deputies arrived on the scene to investigate the fire, which was burning in a field next to Swinney's home, witnesses said.

Lt. James Wilson with the Highway 58 Volunteer Fire Department testified Thursday that he saw the deputies approach Swinney's house and knock on the door with their weapons drawn.

"When he came out, he pulled out the pistol and aimed it at the deputies," said Wilson. "Then he fired."

Law enforcement had encountered Swinney before. According to an April 2 incident report, Swinney was arrested on charges of reckless endangerment involving a firearm after he took an AK-47, a .357-caliber Magnum pistol and another unknown firearm on an ATV and went into a wooded area after some youths.

According to court records, the charge would have been dismissed upon good behavior after he was ordered to participate in a series of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Swinney was in the process of a break-up with a girlfriend and had taken prescription drugs and alcohol, claiming he had nothing to live for, the report said.

Deputies also responded to Swinney's residence on May 21 after he was found unresponsive with various pill containers nearby, a report said. His son told investigators that Swinney had been "down on his luck lately and this was either a suicide attempt or cry for help," according to the report.

At Thursday's hearing, public defender Alan Dunn, representing Swinney, tried to convince Bales to lessen the number of attempted murder charges because Swinney only fired the gun at the group of deputies. But Bales countered that Swinney "put everyone out there at risk" and that if deputies hadn't taken Swinney out, multiple officers could have been killed.

Swinney's first appearance in Criminal Court has not yet been set. He remains in custody on a $1 million dollar bond for each murder charge.

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