Chattanooga Police Department crime scene investigator Sgt. Heather Williams examines a shell casing at the scene of a shooting Monday at the intersection of Wilson Street and North Orchard Knob Avenue. Police reported the victim, who was shot three times by a black male in a black Honda, is currently in stable condition.Photo by Doug Strickland.
It's a scene that is all too familiar for Avondale residents. It starts with a dispute. Gunshots follow with people retreating. A young black man lies in the street until paramedics arrive.
"I saw the young man laying in the street, and I pulled my shirt off to apply pressure to the wounds. I don't even know who he is. He was shot in the back about this far back from his spine," said 48-year-old Sonya Rawlings, holding her index finger less than an inch away from her thumb. "And in his right leg and in the bottom of his foot."
The crime scene tape strung across neighborhood streets forced traffic to be rerouted Monday afternoon. Investigators used pieces of paper to mark evidence where shell casings landed near the intersection of North Orchard Knob Avenue and Wilson Street.
Rawlings, who folded up her blood-stained shirt to take home to wash, spoke and stared as investigators worked to document the scene and interviewed bystanders.
"He just kept saying, 'I don't know why they shot me. I'm trying to go to work.' He had on work clothes," she said, noting a back brace and what appeared to be clothes worn for painting.
As of Monday afternoon, police identified the 26-year-old man who was shot three times as Montez "Butchee" McClendon. He was listed in stable condition at a local hospital and expected to be released, said Officer Tim McFarland at the scene.
The suspected gunman was last seen driving away in a black Honda Accord.
Chattanooga has now exceeded the number of shootings for 2012. Year to date, there have been at least 104 shootings with 121 people shot or killed. In 2012, there were 103 shootings with 122 people injured or killed.
Rawlings doesn't expect things to improve in the neighborhood where several shootings -- some fatal -- happen each year.
A few years ago she held a 17-year-old as he died in her arms from gunshot wounds on North Orchard Knob Avenue.
"I'm still dealing with that and living with that. I did a serenity prayer with that young man. He had a little smile on his face. A tear rolled out of his eye. Then his eyes set and his head fell to the side," Rawlings said. "So when the paramedics came they didn't ask me to move or anything. They just stood there beside me and did what they needed to do. They asked me if I knew him, and I didn't really know him, but I stayed right there with him until he took his last breath."
She is ready to leave the neighborhood.
"I'm going to go try and find me a newspaper and find me a house and get on out of here," she said.
Some people have lost faith in God and in each other, she said.
"There's so many people afraid to reach out to [the young men]," Rawlings said.
Rawlings counts her blessings, though. To end up shot, sometimes all it takes is being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
"He had stopped to ask to use my grandson's phone about 30 minutes before the shooting. I keep thinking what if they had pulled up and started shooting with me and my grandson standing there on the porch. ... I just try to keep my kids in the house and out of the neighborhood."
This isn't the first time police have investigated a shooting where McClendon was wounded.
Earlier this year, on Jan. 9, McClendon was shot and wounded in the 900 block of Roanoke Avenue.
In April 2008, he was shot and wounded in the leg in the 2400 block of Fifth Avenue.
His arrest record in Hamilton County consists of nonviolent offenses including criminal trespassing, theft and drug possession.
On Monday afternoon, Rawlings tried to calm McClendon down.
"I just talked to him and told him ... I needed him to be really still," she said. "He was cursing and in a rage. I think the adrenaline is what kept him from passing out."
Anyone with information is asked to call Chattanooga police at 698-2525.
Contact staff writer Beth Burger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.