Wails from women erupted Thursday morning as authorities held up a white sheet, shielding the sight of 53-year-old Herbert Strickland’s lifeless body, as paramedics loaded it into an ambulance.
With heavy, sagging shoulders, Strickland’s brother leaned against a Chattanooga police patrol car, sobbing uncontrollably as his brother’s corpse was removed from inside the Big K convenience store on Dodson Avenue.
Strickland, known for regularly purchasing coffee and doughnuts at the store, was shot in the head Thursday while inside.
“At this point, we don’t know if there’s any gang affiliation or association with the shooting. We have heard some information it may be retaliation or may be gang-related,” said Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd, standing outside the crime scene tape talking to reporters after a crowd of about 100 people began dispersing hours after the 9:35 a.m. shooting.
As of Thursday afternoon, police said they were still collecting information on one, possibly more, suspects.
Strickland’s death marks the city’s 11th homicide for the year — nearly all of which were the result of shootings.
“Chattanooga gone wild. There’s nothing you can do about it. Something needs to be done,” said a 53-year-old woman at the store who declined to give her name out of fear of retaliation.
Two clerks and at least one other customer were inside the Big K at 909 Dodson Ave. when Strickland was shot. According to police, he used his body to shield a woman before he was killed.
“The victim actually was shielding one person and he told her to get down and out of the way,” Dodd said. “Apparently he didn’t know what was going on himself.”
Another injury occurred when a person scraped an arm on a door while trying to get out of the store, according to authorities.
Onlookers said Strickland was a regular at the store, a neighborhood hangout. He often bought his morning coffee, doughnuts and lottery tickets at the store, then would scratch off the tickets in the parking lot.
“He’s a real good guy. He’s friends with everybody,” the unnamed woman said. “It’s shocking to us. ... You can tell how many friends he’s got. Just look around here.
Kita Bowens, 23, was cleaning out her car down the street when she heard about the shooting when a woman covered in blood ran up saying, “They just shot him.”
“I hope they find out who did it. That’s a sad situation,” Bowens said.
Criminal court records show Strickland had an arrest history, including a dismissed attempted first-degree murder charge.
He was indicted by the Hamilton County grand jury for attempting to kill Marshal Mosely in August 2003, according to court records. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of aggravated assault and received a suspended five-year sentence, records show.
This is the second shooting within a week on Dodson Avenue. On Friday night police responded to a drive-by shooting at 551 Dodson Ave. in which a 16-year-old and 34-year-old were struck in their feet and thighs as they tried to run for cover.
Dodd said Strickland, with his age, doesn’t fit the criteria for a typical shooting victim.
“This man doesn’t fit into the criteria — 18 to 34 — it’s another senseless shooting,” he said before citing statistics that 53 percent of victims of firearm violence in Tennessee are black males. “When they are only represent 16 percent of the population, there’s something wrong with that.”
Dodd said the police department needs the community’s help to catch Strickland’s killer and quell further violence.
“There’s folks in this crowd who know what happened. There’s folks in this crowd who know who did this and why. We need people to step up,” he said.