published Friday, October 4th, 2013

Cleveland, Tenn., man arrested after shooting rampage

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- As police closed in near the lumber section of a Lowe's store on Wednesday night, officers told Avery Earl Shelton Jr. to drop his weapon. He refused. He yelled at the officers.

"Kill me," he said.

Soon after, though, Shelton changed his mind. He set his semiautomatic handgun on a case of water bottles, according to a police report, and officers arrested him. Minutes earlier, police say, Shelton had opened fire at the home improvement store, shattering windows as he aimed for one particular employee.

Shelton, 22, of Cleveland, was charged with attempted murder and four counts of reckless endangerment. On Thursday afternoon, he remained in the Bradley County Jail in lieu of a $1 million bond.

An arrest warrant affidavit gives this account: On Wednesday night, Avery Shelton called his wife, Autumn Shelton. She isn't exactly sure what she heard, but at one point she remembers her husband saying something to this effect: "I will just go kill him."

Autumn asked for clarification.

"What?" she asked.

"Nothing," Avery responded.

But it wasn't nothing. Avery and Autumn got married on Aug. 15, 2012. They have a daughter. In November, Avery Shelton tried to join the military, and Autumn boasted on Facebook about becoming an Army wife.

His time with the military did not last long, though. A sergeant at the U.S. Army Recruiter Station in Cleveland said Shelton failed basic training, and likewise the relationship with his wife seems to have deteriorated.

While Bradley County court records indicate that neither Avery nor Autumn Shelton has filed for a divorce, Autumn began dating Tyler Post, one of her co-workers at Lowe's. Autumn's and Post's Twitter pages are filled with messages professing love to one another.

"(Ninety-five) days and still going strong babe," Autumn Shelton wrote to Post on Sept. 19.

On Wednesday night, Autumn Shelton's mother told a 911 dispatcher that Avery Shelton had threatened to kill Post more than once. And, around 11:20 p.m., he appeared to do it again.

This time, according to the arrest warrant affidavit, Shelton drove his car to the parking lot of Lowe's, located at 229 Paul Huff Parkway. He stopped his car next to Post's, and waited. But then he saw Post, standing with another employee inside the store behind glass, automatic doors.

Police say Shelton drove by the doors, stopped his car and hopped out, his gun hidden behind his leg. He looked at Post and raised his gun. Post and the other employee ran.

Shelton fired.

Three times, he pumped bullets into the doors. He hit the upper part of the left one, the lower part of the right one and a metal piece in between the two.

But he didn't hit Post or the other person.

The store was already closed at this point, so no shoppers were inside -- just 11 Lowe's employees. Shelton approached the doors, kicked through some glass and walked in. There, some of the employees alerted their co-workers.

"Shots fired!" they yelled.

The employees began to run and hide. Two ducked into a room with monitors that showed what the security cameras picked up. One employee, Matt Gillenwater, called 911 at 11:25 p.m. Four other people called dispatchers for help.

Meanwhile, police say, Shelton stood at the front of the store. He fired a bullet in the ceiling. He said he wanted to kill Post.

Then, he saw Post running through the store.

Again, Shelton opened fire.

Again, he missed.

Shelton began to run through the store, according to dispatch records. He ran through the plumbing section and the electrical department. He found Post scrambling toward the lumber section, and he gave chase.

There, though, at the lumber section, Shelton lost Post. He stood near a desk, looking for him. He didn't know it, but Post was nearby.

Cleveland Detective Bill Parks would say a day later that Post had ducked inside a shed and closed the door. From where Shelton stood, Post was on the other side of the desk and around a corner. In all, he was less than 20 feet away.

But police arrived. One of the employees pointed officers toward Shelton, and he did not resist.

"As soon as he saw all the police officers, he was extremely intimidated," Parks said. "He saw all the weapons drawn."

Avery Shelton is scheduled to appear in Bradley County General Sessions Court in front of Judge Sheridan Randolph on Thursday.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com.

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