published Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Man sentenced in police shootout — and more Chattanooga area news

Man sentenced in police shootout

CHATTANOOGA — U.S. District Court Judge Harry S. Mattice Jr. on Monday sentenced a Grundy County, Tenn., man to 10 years in prison for possessing a firearm in a shootout with police.

Russell Wayne Smith, 46, of Gruetli-Laager, Tenn., previously pleaded guilty to a federal grand jury indictment that charged him with being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm.

A news release said Smith had escaped from the Grundy County Jail, was found by sheriff's deputies and ran. Deputies chased him to a wooded area, where they spotted him pointing a rifle in their direction, the release stated. They then fired at Smith and hit him at least twice.

When he was apprehended, Smith had two loaded firearms. He had several previous felony convictions, the release said.

His sentence was the maximum allowed by the statute.


Fire at church under investigation

JASPER, Ga. — Fire investigators are expected to continue probing the cause of a blaze that destroyed a church in Pickens County.

The Rev. Jerry Stewart told local media outlets that he stopped by the Gospel Outreach Church of North Georgia in Jasper on Saturday evening to turn the heat on before the Sunday service.

Stewart said he was a few minutes down the road from the church when someone called to tell him the building was on fire.

The church's roughly 200 members gathered at a community center for the Sunday service.

The cause of the fire is unclear. Glenn Allen, a spokesman for the state fire marshal's office, said investigators planned to be at the scene by midmorning Monday.


Man found dead under house

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Authorities near Birmingham are investigating the death of a man found sitting in a chair in the crawl space of a home.

Jefferson County sheriff's Chief Deputy Randy Christian says a plumber who went under the house to repair broken pipes discovered the 55-year-old man dead Friday afternoon.

Christian tells Al.com that the dead man is the ex-husband of the woman who lives in the house in Center Point, northeast of Birmingham. The dead man no longer lived there, and it's unclear what he was doing beneath the house. The man's ex-wife said she was unaware why he would be under the house.

Christian said no foul play is suspected. He said the cause of death is under investigation.


Small tornado causes damage

WALESKA, Ga. — National Weather Service forecasters say they've determined that recent storm damage in Cherokee County was caused by a small tornado.

The Weather Service said the tornado touched down shortly after 7:30 a.m. Saturday near Waleska. Forecasters said the tornado is considered an EF-0 twister with a maximum wind speed of 80 mph.

Authorities said the tornado skipped along the ground, doing sporadic damage in a path that stretched about three miles.

Officials said the tornado snapped and toppled several trees along its 10-yard-wide path.

The weather service concluded that a tornado touched down after a survey of damage in the area.

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